Digital transformation processes at TCN
This being the speech by the MD/CEO, Transmission Company of Nigeria, Sule Ahmed Abdulaziz, at Lagos Energy Forum, on 21 September 2022.
The Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) is one of the 18 companies unbundled out of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). TCN performs two major roles as the Transmission Service Provider (TSP) and System Operator (SO) of the Nigerian electricity grid. It is licensed to perform these roles by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
In its role as the TSP, TCN owns and operates over 200 substations and 200 lines used to move electricity from generating companies (GenCos) to distribution companies (DisCos), eligible customers, and international customers. TCN constantly maintains these assets while constantly developing and constructing new substations and lines to meet the developmental needs of Nigeria as a whole.
As the SO, TCN coordinates the flow of electricity from 27 generators across over 200 lines connecting them to the DisCos, taking energy across over 800 feeders connected to over 200 substations. In this role, TCN, through the National Control Centre (NCC), accepts nomination from the generators and matches them with forecasts across the over 800 feeders from the 11 DisCos in the country; and, on a real-time basis, the NCC balances demand and supply to ensure grid stability. In addition, TCN does long-term planning for the Nigerian grid by coordinating and managing the desired growth of the generators and distribution companies.
The tasks placed on TCN are significant in complexity and require a level of strategic coordination and execution for effective delivery. Strategically, efficient systems and structures must be put in place to properly achieve these mandates.
In this regard, TCN has developed a roadmap for turnaround within the next four years and a plan for a sustained long-term growth. The strategy is focused on six broad themes. The first is technical optimization, which entails efficient project execution and management for service delivery in line with the needs of the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), and efficient equipment maintenance for high reliability and availability. The second is culture change. Third is digital transformation, which involves increased grid visibility, efficiency and stability through integrated system planning, and using available technologies for stop-gap solutions.
The fourth is management systems augmentation. The fifth is branding and public relations, which entails efficient brand management and visibility. Last but not the least is human capital optimization – ensuring staff skills optimization, and providing staff training.
Many people in our stakeholder universe know that we have embarked on massive projects to expand the grid. The projects include the “Abuja Ring Fence Project” where six new substations and three new lines are being built to serve growth in Abuja, rehabilitation of selected substations, and procurement of necessary spare parts for our stores.
In addition to this, TCN is embarking on an aggressive digital transformation using internal, home-grown solution and vendor procured applications.
By “digital transformation”, we mean enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of firm-wide operations by embracing new platforms and tools, upgrading existing systems, and automating routine tasks.
I will discuss two of the initiatives we have carried out in this area.
Upgrade of the NSONG Platform
When the current Management at TCN came into office, the management of the grid control was done mostly via manual logs and sending of emails. As part of our digital transformation drive, we reactivated the TCN web-portal NSONG that was hitherto used for skeletal exchange of information. Transparency is a key ingredient for market operators running on TCN infrastructures (as TSP) and for coordination by TCN (as SO). Accordingly, we upgraded the NSONG portal to enable transparency. We built a Generator Dispatch Tool (GDT) and Distribution Dispatch Tool (DDT) for the GenCos, DisCos, and NCC Grid Controllers to interact seamlessly and transparently.
Through the NSONG, operational and guidance instructions are dispatched to GenCos and Discos, ensuring a transparent and seamless communication within the electricity grid. All activities and interactions between stakeholders are logged. These logs are helpful for analysis and planning; they are also used in dispute resolution.
The GDT of the NSONG is used by GenCos to submit their day-ahead nominations, stating what they want to generate in the next 24 hours. (These nominations are used by the NCC Grid Controllers to allocate load in a transparent manner to the DisCos, who equally submit what they want to take in the NSONG through the Distribution Dispatch Tool). It is also used for gathering quarter-hour/hourly generation profile (MW & MVar) of the individual generating units in all GenCos. The NSONG portal is also used for dispatching load profile instructions to GenCos (free governor/increase/decrease generation) to ensure the stability of the grid.
The immediate gains of the GDT are timely dissemination of quarter-hour generation data by GenCos to NCC, monitoring of the units on free-governor or frequency response, elimination of errors that occur while using phone calls to obtain generation data thereby largely eliminating disputes that often arise from verbal sending of data. Others include easy storage and retrieval of generation data (MW & MVar), closer monitoring of generation performance, viewing of generation history and export of records, and support of meritorious dispatch of generating units in the grid.
The DDT is currently being used to give load allocation to the DisCos, and it has these immediate benefits: monitoring of distribution load profile, and matching of DisCo load profile to GenCo availability, and vice versa.
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System/Energy Management System (SCADA/EMS)
The NSONG was built and is being maintained by the TCN ICT department. The advantage of this, for us, is the ability to meet the needs of the electricity sector in a timely manner. Before our team came, people were simply waiting for a new SCADA/EMS to implement these tasks, while overlooking in-house talents and solutions in the ICT department.
Yes, an industrial-grade SCADA/EMS is the best solution to implement the coordination and recording of electricity flow and market data on the grid. However, the management decided that TCN must meet its mandates while the procurement of SCADA is being actively pursued. So, the Management turned to its internal ICT team. The result is a more efficient and transparent process/system, which is constantly being improved upon.
In addition, we are actively pursuing the implementation of a modern SCADA/EMS system. We recently awarded a contract for the implementation of the SCADA/EMS and other enabling works. Prior to this, we started the process of building two state-of-the-art control centres in Osogbo and Gwagwalada to house the new SCADA/EMS infrastructure. While all these are going on, we will continue to rely on in-house talents to meet the expectations of the DisCos, GenCos, and our regulator.
Increasing Grid Visibility
For effective grid management and control, it is important that the Grid Controllers at NCC see all the parts of the grid to accurately gauge situations on it and take necessary remedial measures to guarantee its reliability. When we came, only six out of 27 generators were visible to NCC. And only a few transmission stations (15 out of 50 330KV TS and 26 out of 152 132KV TS) were visible to NCC. Apparently, people were waiting for the completion of the SCADA/EMS for visibility level to increase. But we recognized that little things can be done to make great impact. So, we tasked our engineers to come up with stop-gap solutions to address visibility issues.
Our engineers came up with an in-house design that leverages on “Internet of Things” to get data in near-real time from all the generators and some substations. Currently, almost all the generators on the grid are visible on the grid, while we have substantially increased the number of substations visible to NCC. This in-house solution to the perennial visibility problem has shown that while waiting for the big idea to mature, we can leverage on small solutions that deliver fast results and make big impacts.
On the big project side, we are currently embarking on the procurement of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to cover all our processes, Automatic Meter Reading System for automatic reading of grid meters for market settlement and analysis, and an online-based settlement system for the use of the Nigerian electricity sector.
We will continue to embark on digital transformation of TCN for the benefit of the NESI, using both internal and external resources, while leveraging on both big and small solutions sets.
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