TenneT: “In a few years’ time we took 61,850 steps in the right direction together”

TenneT is a leading European transmission system operator (TSO), with activities in the Netherlands and in Germany. With its high-voltage grid, it strives to ensure a reliable and uninterrupted supply of electricity for some 42 million people.

In 2016, TenneT started a big bay replacement project, in order to bring standardization to its wide variety of 110 / 150 kV substations, all 140 of which are going to be replaced in the coming ten to fifteen years. For the proof of concept phase, TenneT selected Energico to help develop the first new substations.

Used products from Energico

Situation: what was the reason for the project (and for choosing Energico as a partner)?

“Our network of substations dates back to the 1950s and 1960s; they were installed by regional system operators, all according to their own different standards”, says Bas Mulder, Technologist OT (Operational Technology) at TenneT. “As a result, we still have a great diversity of assets. To prepare for a future-proof grid, to increase the speed of replacement and to reduce maintenance costs, we decided on two new standards; one for open air substations and one for indoor substations. We issued a tender for the proof of concept phase, and Energico presented us with their ideas on how to approach standardization, by developing modular building blocks for both our primary and secondary systems.”

“The high-level documentation they provided during the tender, showed a level of knowledge that gave us the confidence that they knew exactly what they were talking about and what we needed”, adds Maurits van Tol, Engineer PAC (Protection, Automation and Control) at TenneT. “And they also presented some good ideas on how to manage everything.”

Solution: how did Energico contribute to the project?

Bas: “In our tender request, we provided a conceptual architecture for the substations, including a description of components. Based on this concept and our product requirements, Energico came up with a detailed implementation plan for standardization. Not just for hardware, but also for software and engineering. How to program the components, how to configure them, how to integrate everything and to make it work as one system. At some point in this process, Energico started using Helinks; a relatively new engineering tool for IEC 61850 system engineering. By using a top down engineering approach, we managed to turn all the gray areas in our plans into black and white.”

“The other way around, our questions and requests triggered Helinks to further develop and improve their tool. During the entire project, we had a closed feedback loop with Energico, Helinks and other IEC 61850 users.”

“We are now configuring substations rather than engineering them.”

- Maurits van Tol, TenneT

Results: wat has the project brought TenneT?

Maurits: “As far as the proof of concept phase is concerned, we have achieved most of our program’s goals concerning the use of IEC 61850. The method we have developed together, with the building blocks and our top down engineering approach, is very promising for the future. It really speeds up the engineering process. Actually, we are now configuring substations rather than engineering them, which allows me to do the repeating tasks faster and focus on solving real problems. That makes my life a lot easier. And it’s more fun, since solving problems is what I like best.”

“Equipment standardization enables us to buy hardware in bigger volumes at better prices and keep less stock of spare parts,” adds Bas, “while the standardization in configuration and engineering secures the quality and speed of our replacement operation. We want to renovate 140 substations in the next ten to fifteen years; about one per month.”

Review: how did TenneT experience the collaboration with Energico?

Bas: “I’d describe it as a warm collaboration; very open and transparent. They always try to find the best solutions for us, and we are immediately consulted in case of questions or doubts. They really deserve credits for the work, time and energy they are putting into helping us to move forward. You could say that in a few years’ time, we took 61,850 steps in the right direction together.”

“It feels like working with colleagues rather than working with a contractor or supplier”, Maurits concludes. “We have an open and honest working relationship, which is all about helping each other making the right decisions for the project.”

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