Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Smart People - The most crucial asset for Smart Power Systems

As a consultant for Power Automation Systems I am traveling all over educating utility people to better understand the paradigm shift from today's - some times electromechanical - solutions to the use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in the power world. I am very concerned that the most crucial Asset - the PEOPLE - is often understood to save money: less people, less education, less ... leads to better profits - yes, in the Short Term!

This morning I read a very interesting (not surprising) viewpoint written by the Editor Emeritus of the Hydro Power Magazine HRW (May 2009 issue, Vol. 17, No 2) with the title:

Dams and Hydropower Endure ...
Yet, the Right People Are Needed!

"Dams and hydropower facilities are almost uniquely enduring ... in a world too often focused on the "next quarter" (or, perhaps, the next election). Many beneficial facilities exceed 50 -and some 100 -years of age.
While such facilities can seem ageless, the people who tend to them are not. In fact, multiple generations of educated, trained, and experienced individuals are required to care for these facilities. As things continually change, it's important that personnel needs not be minimized. It must remain a top priority to do what's necessary to ensure that people are available and well-trained to provide needed stewardship. ... Today there is a heightened concern over adequate staffing and technical support, as policy-and decision-makers often have quite limited knowledge of the needs, associated risks, and possible consequences of failing to appropriately address "people" needs."

Low and high level investments in the power industry are really challenging. In the recent years you could see many companies cutting personal - often the well educated and experienced experts left their firm in the age of 55 to 60. Many experts are still available. Some of them are really not looking for the paradigm shift because this would require to learn a lot of new stuff. I have heard that a manager said: "If you want to use this new technology, you have wait until I have retired!"

Some two years ago I did some education on IEC 61850 at a small utility. Some six months later I asked about the progress they made in the meantime. The answer was: "We are still two retirements away from IEC 61850!"

The years to come may provide huge investments (many billions of USD or EUR or ... for the Smart Grid). Check the announcements of the last days or weeks.

How could the relatively few engineers spent this huge amount of money? Often the utilities will just buy what's available - to keep the power flowing. There is usually not much time at all to get the key people trained in order to become able to use the new technology for the benefit of the utility. Investing huge amounts of money without a solid and well thought plan will lead to this: Today's solution will become tomorrow's problems.

The Power Delivery Systems Endures ...
Yet, the Right People Are Needed - people educated and experienced!

Education is when you study the new ICT solutions based on International Standards -- Experience is what you get if you don't. Human beings learn only by experience - but only by their own experience. Benefit from the experienced senior engineers that are open to the use of advanced ICT.

Read the following paper discussing the "Impact of IEC 61850 on System Engineering, Tools, Peopleware and the Role of the System Integrator" [full paper] and [slides]

Finally, let me briefly discuss "Smart Grids":

"Data" becomes "Smart Data"
"Smart Data" becomes "Smarter Data"

"Grid" becomes "Smart Grid"
"Smart Grid" becomes "Smarter Grid"

"People" need to become "Smart People"
"Smart People" need to become "Smarter People"

Smart (well educated) People are the prerequisite to use data, software, devices, tools, and the grid to build Smart Power Systems!

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