May 17, 2020

Working to Trim Energy Office Bills

3 min
Woman in office puts on sweater
Whether you are the utility company providing services to your local businesses or the latter receiving such services, efficiency is important. Sure, e...

Whether you are the utility company providing services to your local businesses or the latter receiving such services, efficiency is important. Sure, energy providers want to make money, but they also can and should educate their consumers on how to run more energy-efficient homes and businesses.

As such, smart business owners know that every penny really does count. If you're trying to save money by reducing your office's monthly energy bill, the following five tips can help:

Pay Attention to Temperature

It's important to periodically check your office's thermostat to ensure it is properly set for the current weather. Running it too high or low can quickly run up energy costs. An added benefit is keeping your office at the right temperature will maximize employees' productivity.

A study from the Helsinki University of Technology found that 71 degrees is the ideal temperature for productivity. And a study from Cornell Universityfound that while employee productivity can stay high in temperatures of up to 77 degrees, errors increase by 44 percent when the temperature goes below 68 degrees.

Trust Energy Star

If you were under the impression that Energy Star certification was nothing more than a marketing tactic, that's a fair assumption to make. However, because this program's standards are actually set by the EPA, the Energy Star certification really does mean something.

As a result, you can count on them to help you save energy and money without having to settle for inferior performance. Of the 65 different kinds of Energy Star products, some of the ones that are most relevant to offices include computers, monitors and imaging equipment.

Opt for Compact Fluorescent Lamps

There are two main advantages to fluorescent light bulbs. First, they use up to 35 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs. Second, they last approximately 10 times as long. Because of both traits, not only will they help you save money, but they'll also reduce how often bulbs need to be changed.

When it comes to picking an option for your office, there are two main types. Since they fit in almost all standard fixtures, compact fluorescent lamps are the most popular option. But if there are areas where you need a larger light, a fluorescent tube is the way to go.

Don't Leave on the Lights

Although this may sound obvious, it's commonly ignored.

Since it's easy to forget to turn off the lights when you need to leave the office in a hurry, using a dimmer, motion sensor or photosensor control can take care of this task automatically.

Switch to Laptops

According to the EPA, laptops are up to three times as energy efficient as desktop computers.

Not only can switching to laptops cut your energy costs, but this change will provide other benefits as well. The increased mobility will allow employees to easily take their computer to meetings.

And since a story published by NPR cited multiple studies that found that sitting all week increases a variety of health risks, a laptop will make it easier for employees to move around throughout the day while remaining just as productive.

As you can see, trimming office energy bills doesn't have to be painful.

By gradually implementing measures such as paying attention to the temperature, trusting Energy Star, opting for compact fluorescent lights, not leaving lights on all the time and at least considering a switch to laptops, you'll be able to start saving in no time.

And if your energy provider is not encouraging you to save on your company’s electric bill, contact them to locate ways you can trim those expenses.

About the Author: Jesse Galt is a freelancer who writes about a wide range of topics, including Internet management reputation servicesand how businesses can use email to market themselves.

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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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