Article: 5 questions with Orhan Yilmaz, ABB

Q: What keeps you up at night when you think about the transition in Australia?

A: Australia’s energy sector is transitioning to digital energy. This is a substantial move to modernising the electric grid, which requires increased demand for energy while ensuring the highest levels of reliability, resilience, security, affordability, and sustainability.

The conventional approach to system protection and control must evolve. We need to reassess substation protection and control architectures, considering alternative design principles such as centralised protection and control.

Q: What exciting developments are inspiring you at the moment?

A: There is a growing need for flexible protection and control products, and for flexible solutions and services to support those products. The inspiring concept of centralised protection and control (CPC) is not new, but only recently the advancements in computing technology and international standards have made it a feasible alternative for conventional substations. CPC units can now be deployed in several different architectures. All the while giving us the benefits from the solution related to increased flexibility and performance and reduced overall lifecycle costs.

Hence, we are witnessing the development and collaboration for the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) systems, leading to the deployment of real-time autonomous edge systems, and the implementation of a comprehensive approach to modern cybersecurity.

Q: How is ABB Australia’s approach different to other organisations in the energy sector?

A: To address the industry challenges in the energy sector, technology leaders around the world have created the Virtual Protection Automation and Control (VPAC) Alliance. VPAC standards call for flexible, manageable, and interoperable platforms using software-defined technologies and virtualised versions of standard solutions for the grid of the future.

ABB is a pioneer and alliance member of VPAC, thus incorporating these standards into ABB’s centralised protection and control systems. ABB’s CPC solution - the Smart Substation and Control (SSC600) - stands out as one-of-a-kind in today's market.

Q: We hear a lot of concern that the transition is not moving fast enough. What do you see as potential solutions for unblocking some of the current gridlock?

A: Australia's shift from conventional systems to modernised digital systems is currently seen to be progressing at incremental levels. The primary concern lies in users not being familiar with current practices. However, this is viewed as an opportunity to educate and encourage a deeper understanding among users regarding new technologies, especially around centralised protection, and control.

Q: Are there any ‘hidden’ or less discussed issues that the energy sector needs to be more aware of?

A: We're witnessing numerous opportunities in the digital transition. However, along with these opportunities come challenges. For instance, while there's a rapidly expanding demand for energy in Australia, we're also faced with the challenge of achieving a smaller carbon footprint. Furthermore, there's a significant growth in renewable energy, but this brings along the issue of intermittent energy supply to our Australian grids giving us the challenge to maintain efficiency, productivity, and continuity. Additionally, the decentralisation of our energy supplies introduces operational complexities. It's crucial to recognise that traditional systems for protection and control may not be adequate to meet these evolving demands, and this aspect needs to be discussed more frequently.

You can catch Orhan Yilmaz speaking in the 'Re-engineering the Grid' stream' of Australian Energy Week 2024 (13 June).

To access the detailed conference program, download the brochure here.

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