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Guardian - Risk Management Solution for Electricity North West

The Challenge

Electricity North West distributes electricity in North West England on behalf of the electricity supply companies. Customers receive their electricity bill from their suppliers who pay for use of the electricity network. Electricity North West delivers electricity to 5 million people in 2.4 million properties throughout the North West and is responsible for the maintenance of assets which includes over 44,500 substations in 12,500 km2.

Theft of infrastructure is an enduring problem for all economies, but from 2011, across the United Kingdom, there was a surge in incidences of metal theft, particularly from electricity distribution networks. Electricity North West identified in its 2011-2012 Annual Report that ‘the increasing frequency of metal theft has been a contributory factor to the decrease in operating profits from £210m in 2010-11 to £189m in 2011-12.1 There are a range of costs associated with metal theft, including the cost of replacements, the cost of repairing the damage, service disruption, customer reimbursement, compensation and loss of revenue. The Energy Networks Association2 in 2010 provided an estimation of an average direct value cost per metal theft incident of £2,750.

The civil asset management of thousands of substations is a formidable challenge, with further key risks such as flooding, asset deterioration and degradation and vandalism. There are also additional financial incentives for distributors to maximise the effectiveness of risk management of their asset base. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) as the industry regulator, provides Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards, which must be met by each distribution company. These standards are set to guarantee a level of service to customers. Failures to meet the necessary service levels of supply, results in payments to customers for the loss of supply.

Electricity North West were impressed by Stonehaven Technology’s ability to integrate and analyse a range of data sources concerning risks to the network. Electricity North West saw an opportunity to develop an innovative enterprise application which would provide a mature, data driven approach to the risk management of the network, based on a prioritisation model and provide a foundation to demonstrably enhance the security of the network, the supply of electricity and significantly reduce associated revenue losses.

Solution

Stonehaven Technology recognised that any solution would have to be developed around existing Electricity North West business processes and maximise the use of existing data sets, which had been compiled over a number of years. Stonehaven Technology also recognised that the problem experienced was common to a number of utilities and that there was much valuable academic research which could be exploited and incorporated in a solution.

Development commenced in September 2014, with the first release of Guardian going live in February 2015. Wider departmental interest in the application widened the numbers and type of Electricity North West users, resulting in the development of additional functionality from October 2015 and a second release issued in January 2016.

The driving functionality of Guardian is to achieve a daily assessment of risk for each individual asset, derived from an algorithm and to provide Electricity North West with a mature understanding of the prioritisation of security and civil asset management work to be undertaken across the network to efficiently mitigate the risk.

Guardian provides the following key features:

  • The reporting of incidents, enhancements conducted and abstractions across the asset base.
  • Integration of a range of open data covering subjects of Crime, Socio-Demographics, Scrapyard Licenses, London Spot Metal Exchange price of copper, Hospital Locations, Post Code, Flood Warnings and Meteorology.
  • Intuitive dashboard, reports and charts for rapid analysis.
  • Full text search and configurable filters.
  • Sophisticated geospatial analytical tools, including functionality to designate time dependent areas of dynamic risk.
  • An adaptable algorithm for the calculation of risk, with results updated at least once every 24 hours.
  • Control of user access rights, based on roles and attributes.
  • Comprehensive storage of all user interactions with the data.

The CUBA Platform was used as a core technology to bring enterprise-ready infrastructure with a rich set of visual components, including deep integration with Google Maps and ready to use runtime features. The CUBA Studio, an intuitive tool for CUBA applications development, accelerated the development stage, enabling a working prototype in less than a day.

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Result

Guardian is the only application of its kind to enable companies with thousands of assets to have a comprehensive, algorithmically derived understanding of risk at each individual location and the integrated business processes to manage the mitigation of the risk. Since installation, incidents of metal theft have significantly reduced, detailed and timely flood warnings can now be issued, spending on the type and location of enhancements can be recorded and analysed and patterns of abstractions recognised and dealt with.

Guardian also enables distribution companies to meet the requirements of the Electricity, Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002; to maintain the network, prevent danger, interference with, or interruption of supply, and enables the classification of risk in a permanent record.

The success of Guardian was recognised as a finalist in the 2015 Energy Innovation Centre Awards.

Electricity North West were impressed by Stonehaven Technology’s ability to integrate and analyse a range of data sources concerning risks to the network. Electricity North West saw an opportunity to develop an innovative enterprise application which would provide a mature, data driven approach to the risk management of the network, based on a prioritisation model and provide a foundation to demonstrably enhance the security of the network, the supply of electricity and significantly reduce associated revenue losses.

1. P8, Electricity North West. (2012). Annual Report and Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 31 March 2012. Warrington, UK.

2. The industry body for UK wires and pipes companies that carry electricity and gas to UK homes and businesses.