May 17, 2020

Top 10 utilities companies in the world

4 min
EDF is based in Paris
[email protected] The March issue of Energy Digital magazine is live 1.) Duke Energy, U.S. Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, N.C., has a $49.3 billio...

The March issue of Energy Digital magazine is live

1.)    Duke Energy, U.S.

Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, N.C., has a $49.3 billion market value. It is the largest electric power holding company in the U.S., supplying and delivering energy to approximately 7.2 million customers. Duke has approximately 57,700 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida – and natural gas distribution services in Ohio and Kentucky. Duke’s commercial and international businesses own and operate diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a portfolio of renewable energy assets.

2.)    GDF Suez, France

GDF Suez, based in Paris, is a multinational electric company with a $45 billion market value.The company, formed in July 2008 by the merger of Gaz de France and Suez, traces its origins to the Universal Suez Canal Co. founded in 1858 to construct the Suez Canal. The firm also holds a 35 percent stake in Suez Environnement, the water treatment and waste management company spun off from Suez at the time of the merger

3.)    Southern Co., U.S.

Southern Co., based in Atlanta, Ga., has a $39.6 billion market value. The company serves the U.S. Southeast and owns electric utilities in four states — Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power. It has 4.4 million customers and nearly 46,000 megawatts of generating capacity. Operations include generation plants, high-voltage transmission lines, and low-voltage distribution lines. Its competitive generation company also constructs, acquires and manages generation assets and sells electricity on the wholesale market.

4.)    EDF, France

EDF, based in Paris, is one of the leaders in the European energy market with a $35.3 billion market value. It is an integrated energy company active in all areas of the business: generation, transmission, distribution, energy supply and trading. In France, it has mainly nuclear and hydropower generation facilities where 95.9 percent of the electricity output is CO2-free. EDF is involved in supplying energy and services to approximately 28.6 million customers in France.

5.)    Iberdrola, Spain,

Iberdrola, based in Bilbao, is active in nearly 40 countries, has almost 32 million customers, and a $33.6 billion market value. Subsidiaries include Scottish Power (Scotland), Iberdrola USA, and Elektro (Brazil), among others. The company has undergone a wide-ranging transformation over the last 10 years that has enabled it to advance through the ranks to become the number one Spanish energy group, the world leader in wind energy, and one of the world's top power companies. After more than 150 years moving forward, the company has laid the foundation for future growth.

6.)    Dominion Resources, U.S.

Dominion Resources, based in Richmond, Va., is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of approximately 23,500 megawatts of generation and a $32.7 billion market value. Dominion has 11,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,400 miles of electric transmission lines. The company operates one of the nation's largest natural gas storage systems with 947 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves retail energy customers in 15 states.

7.)    E.ON, Germany

E.ON, based in Düsseldorf, is one of the world's largest investor-owned electric utility service providers with a $32.5 billion market value. It operates in over 30 countries and serves more than 26 million customers. As result of mergers, E.ON inherited the subsidiaries of VEBA, VIAG and Ruhrgas in Central and Eastern Europe. It is also present in Russia, where it has a 6.4 percent stake in the natural gas company Gazprom, control of the generation company OGK-4; and is present in most of Scandinavia.

8.)    Enel, Italy

Enel, based in Rome, is the main operator in Italy and has a $32.2 billion market value. It manages 39,979 MW of installed capacity, produces 79 TWh per year, and serves more than 31.3 million customers. Since 2006, the company has become the second largest gas seller Italy with 4.3 million customers. Enel Green Power manages renewable power plants for a total capacity of 3,068 MW.

9.)    NextEra Energy, U.S.

NextEra Energy, based in Juno Beach, Fla., is the largest generator of wind and solar power in North America with a $31.6 billion market value. The company has more than 125 facilities in operation in 24 states and Canada and generates 17,771 megawatts. Approximately 95 percent of NextEra’s electricity comes from clean or renewable sources

10.) Exelon, U.S.

Exelon Corp., based in Chicago, with a $28.5 billion market value, has operations and business activities in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The company has approximately 34,700 megawatts of owned capacity comprising one of the nation’s cleanest and lowest-cost power generation fleets. Exelon’s utilities deliver electricity and natural gas to more than 6.6 million customers in central Maryland (BGE), northern Illinois (ComEd) and southeastern Pennsylvania (PECO).

Photo credit: Radu Razvan/

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Jun 12, 2021

Why Transmission & Distribution Utilities Need Digital Twins

Petri Rauhakallio
6 min
Petri Rauhakallio at Sharper Shape outlines the Digital Twins benefits for energy transmission and distribution utilities

As with any new technology, Digital twins can create as many questions as answers. There can be a natural resistance, especially among senior utility executives who are used to the old ways and need a compelling case to invest in new ones. 

So is digital twin just a fancy name for modelling? And why do many senior leaders and engineers at power transmission & distribution (T&D) companies have a gnawing feeling they should have one? Ultimately it comes down to one key question: is this a trend worth our time and money?

The short answer is yes, if approached intelligently and accounting for utilities’ specific needs. This is no case of runaway hype or an overwrought name for an underwhelming development – digital twin technology can be genuinely transformational if done right. So here are six reasons why in five years no T&D utility will want to be without a digital twin. 

1. Smarter Asset Planning

A digital twin is a real-time digital counterpart of a utility’s real-world grid. A proper digital twin – and not just a static 3D model of some adjacent assets – represents the grid in as much detail as possible, is updated in real-time and can be used to model ‘what if’ scenarios to gauge the effects in real life. It is the repository in which to collect and index all network data, from images, to 3D pointclouds, to past reports and analyses.

With that in mind, an obvious use-case for a digital twin is planning upgrades and expansions. For example, if a developer wants to connect a major solar generation asset, what effect might that have on the grid assets, and will they need upgrading or reinforcement? A seasoned engineer can offer an educated prediction if they are familiar with the local assets, their age and their condition – but with a digital twin they can simply model the scenario on the digital twin and find out.

The decision is more likely to be the right one, the utility is less likely to be blindsided by unforeseen complications, and less time and money need be spent visiting the site and validating information.

As the energy transition accelerates, both transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities will receive more connection requests for anything from solar parks to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to heat pumps and batteries – and all this on top of normal grid upgrade programs. A well-constructed digital twin may come to be an essential tool to keep up with the pace of change.

2. Improved Inspection and Maintenance

Utilities spend enormous amounts of time and money on asset inspection and maintenance – they have to in order to meet their operational and safety responsibilities. In order to make the task more manageable, most utilities try to prioritise the most critical or fragile parts of the network for inspection, based on past inspection data and engineers’ experience. Many are investigating how to better collect, store and analyze data in order to hone this process, with the ultimate goal of predicting where inspections and maintenance are going to be needed before problems arise.  

The digital twin is the platform that contextualises this information. Data is tagged to assets in the model, analytics and AI algorithms are applied and suggested interventions are automatically flagged to the human user, who can understand what and where the problem is thanks to the twin. As new data is collected over time, the process only becomes more effective.

3. More Efficient Vegetation Management

Utilities – especially transmission utilities in areas of high wildfire-risk – are in a constant struggle with nature to keep vegetation in-check that surrounds power lines and other assets. Failure risks outages, damage to assets and even a fire threat. A comprehensive digital twin won’t just incorporate the grid assets – a network of powerlines and pylons isolated on an otherwise blank screen – but the immediate surroundings too. This means local houses, roads, waterways and trees. 

If the twin is enriched with vegetation data on factors such as the species, growth rate and health of a tree, then the utility can use it to assess the risk from any given twig or branch neighbouring one of its assets, and prioritise and dispatch vegetation management crews accordingly. 

And with expansion planning, inspection and maintenance, the value here is less labor-intensive and more cost-effective decision making and planning – essential in an industry of tight margins and constrained resources. What’s more, the value only rises over time as feedback allows the utility to finesse the program.

4. Automated powerline inspection

Remember though, that to be maximally useful, a digital twin must be kept up to date. A larger utility might blanche at the resources required to not just to map and inspect the network once in order to build the twin, but update that twin at regular intervals.

However, digital twins are also an enabling technology for another technological step-change – automated powerline inspection.

Imagine a fleet of sensor-equipped drones empowered to fly the lines almost constantly, returning (automatically) only to recharge their batteries. Not only would such a set-up be far cheaper to operate than a comparable fleet of human inspectors, it could provide far more detail at far more regular intervals, facilitating all the above benefits of better planning, inspection, maintenance and vegetation management. Human inspectors could be reserved for non-routine interventions that really require their hard-earned expertise.

In this scenario, the digital twin provides he ‘map’ by which the drone can plan a route and navigate itself, in conjunction with its sensors. 

5. Improved Emergency Modelling and Faster Response

If the worst happens and emergency strikes, such as a wildfire or natural disaster, digital twins can again prove invaluable. The intricate, detailed understanding of the grid, assets and its surroundings that a digital twin gives is an element of order in a chaotic situation, and can guide the utility and emergency services alike in mounting an informed response.

And once again, the digital twin’s facility for ‘what-if’ scenario testing is especially useful for emergency preparedness. If a hurricane strikes at point X, what will be the effect on assets at point Y? If a downed pylon sparks a fire at point A, what residences are nearby and what does an evacuation plan look like?

6. Easier accommodation of external stakeholders

Finally, a digital twin can make lighter work of engaging with external stakeholders. The world doesn’t stand still, and a once blissfully-isolated powerline may suddenly find itself adjacent to a building site for a new building or road. 

As well as planning for connection (see point 1), a digital twin takes the pain out of those processes that require interfacing with external stakeholders, such as maintenance contractors, arborists, trimming crews or local government agencies – the digital twin breaks down the silos between these groups and allows them to work from a single version of the truth – in future it could even be used as part of the bid process for contractors.

These six reasons for why digital twins will be indispensable to power T&D utilities are only the tip of the iceberg; the possibilities are endless given the constant advancement of data collection an analysis technology. No doubt these will invite even more questions – and we relish the challenge of answering them. 


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