Barriers to implementing digitalisation measures in the transmission and distribution (T&D) industry could "hold back" the success of the global energy transition, DNV GL has said.
Just over half (52%) of distribution network operators (DNOs) have digitalisation as a core part of their publicly stated strategy, DNV GL found in its latest report, which surveyed almost 2,000 engineers and senior executives in the energy sector worldwide.
This figure drops to 39% of transmission system operators (TSOs) with digitalisation as a core part of their publicly stated strategy.
The report also found that one third of the T&D industry considers itself less advanced than the wider energy industry in regards to its current application of digitalisation.
However, T&D stakeholders are “heavily focused” on including additional digital skillsets into their workforce, with 67% of respondents highlighting the need for employees with combined data and domain experience.
The three most important skills for the industry were listed as understanding the application of Internet of Things (IoT) (48%), data science (47%) and big data analytics (41%).
A lack of a digital mindset was cited as a barrier by 40% of T&D stakeholders surveyed, defined as a lack of staff engagement with digitalisation.
Lucy Craig, vice president of technology and innovation at DNV GL- Energy, said that whilst the ambition and technology might be there, unless organisations concentrate the efforts of their workforce towards the adoption of new technologies and harvesting of opportunities created by big data and enhanced connectivity, the impact of digitalisation will be "limited".
Stakeholders are aware of the perceived benefits of digitalisation, according to the report. The top three digital technologies listed as making an impact on their industry were cyber security, with 76% of TSOs and 67% of DNOs citing the technology, data visualisation at 67% of TSOs and 71% of DNOs and automation and digital workflow at 73% of TSOs and 69% DNOs.
“The role that the T&D industry needs to play in making the energy transition a success cannot be overestimated, which is why we call on organisations to invest in digital skills training to equip their employees with the necessary competences to tackle the challenges the T&D industry is facing,” Craig added.
In the UK, DNOs ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) both recently released their digitalisation strategies.
SPEN lauded digitalisation as a “key tool” in managing the energy transition, and both DNOs placed a heavy focus on open data.
Both also pointed to recommendations made by the Energy Data Taskforce, which focused on the wider energy system in the UK. They suggested using existing legislative and regulatory framework to direct the sector, open data, establishing a data catalogue, an asset registration strategy and a unified digital system map of the energy system.