Dealing with an ageing transmission and distribution infrastructure

Most of the European and North American Electricity Transmission and Distribution networks we know today are a legacy of the post-war boom and build cycles. In the years since the end of the Second World War, the population has grown, and our collective energy consumption has outpaced even that growth.
With all of these increases in demand, new power plants have been built, and the network has grown to help meet the demands of our every power-hungry population. Much of the existing network is due for a replacement. With lifecycles of approximately 40 years for some of the longest-living components, our networks are due for an overhaul. Replacement and refurbishment is a costly endeavour for the utilities and systems operators who also focus on grid expansion to new construction zones, as well as integrating new power plants -both conventional and renewable – into the grid.
With a heavy focus on integrating renewable energy sources into the grid, grid operators are looking at ways to extend the life of the existing grid to be able to delay replacement and the heavy CAPEX costs associated with that. Smarter management of the grid infrastructure through monitoring and other high-tech power infrastructure systems and solutions has allowed DSOs and TSOs to delay investments in replacing ageing infrastructure, while at the same time preparing the existing network for new technologies. When it does come time to replace the infrastructure, the grid systems will be able to be better integrated allowing for more smart-grid type applications.
These technological additions to the grid also have the benefit of allowing easier integration and interconnectivity with other grid networks. Granted, of course, that harmonisation and proper management takes place over the larger, interconnected grid network.
With smarter technology, faults are sooner detected, and failing components can be more easily identified and replaced, allowing the focus to be put on the highest priority replacement needs through smart monitoring. As we future-proof our grid, we should be able to get more life our of the components out of every dollar invested.