In conversation with ABB’s global manager for network control

May 14th, 2019, Published in Articles: Energize

ABB has been selected by CI-Energies (Societe des Energies de Côte d’Ivoire) to upgrade the power distribution network of Ivory Coast, one of the fastest developing countries in Africa. The modernised Ivorian power grid will cater to the growing demand for electricity within the country and enhance the export of electricity to neighboring countries who are part of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), including Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo and Mali. 

Yilang Chen

Energize spoke to Yilang Chen, the global manager for the company’s network control business in the Grid Automation business line within the Power Grids business recently. The company says the new solution with communication platform and advanced grid control system will smooth out the migration to future technologies and enable an extension of existing grid automation infrastructure with reliable performance for critical grid operation applications.

How does Ivory Coast generate electricity? 

The mixture of Ivory Coast generation capacity evolved over time, from hydro initially. Thermal units were added to satisfy growing demand for electricity and to hedge against disruption. Gradually the country became overly reliant on thermal units. To support sustainable growth, the government made restructuring energy mix an important part of its overall strategy. Ivory Coast is aligned with the rest of world in its effort to expand renewable energy supply, and as a result renewable generation capacity has increased steadily in recent years. Currently it is close to 30%, with the percentage expecting to grow in coming years. It is estimated that by 2030 the renewable generation will be about 40% of the total capacity with hydro generation at about 25% of total capacity.

What is Ivory Coast’s generating capacity? 

The current generation capacity is about 2200 MW. Ivory Coast intends to strengthen its position as the electricity energy hub for the region and has an ambition to increase its generation capacity to 6000 MW by 2030.  Ivory Coast exports about 15% of its electricity a year to its neighboring countries. The amount of power exported in 2018 is estimated at 1750 GWh which is twice the amount it exported in 2015.

When is the project likely to start and how long will it take to complete?

The general kick-off for the project was in late October 2018, the overall project schedule is 24 months with the go-live planned for end of 2020.

How much will this project cost and how will it be paid for? 

Ivory Coast has been investing heavily in the energy sector to support the ever-increasing demand for electricity both domestically and regionally and many institutions have contributed to the financing of such investments. While the overall programme and the initial funding cover a much larger scope beyond what is provided by ABB, the communication systems, the company’s SCADA and distribution management system (ADMS) are critical components of the digital drive for a smarter and greener grid.

What technical problems will this upgrade address?

Rapid growth, stressed T&D infrastructure and generation mixture changes make the grid operation in the region more challenging than in other parts of the world, yet the technology used in field and in control rooms have not been upgraded as frequently as it should be. This led to reduced power supply quality and inability to support generation capacity expansion. The grid control infrastructure currently in operation does not support the level of communication required by a modern smart grid, similarly in the control centre operators have limited visibility of the grid and often rely on manual processes to operate the grid. The new upgrade will substantially increase grid automation capability and lay a digital foundation for more equipment, device, data, control, and optimisation that will be required to support the growth in electricity production. The upgrade will reduce outage time, increase the grid’s ability to support distributed generation and expand the utilisation of grid assets through optimisation and better control.

What is the Ivory Coast’s future plans?

The government has committed to meeting demand growth in a sustainable way, it is pushing for additional renewable generation capacity aggressively, demanding a larger share of hydro-power, biomass, and solar. It is anticipated that by 2030 hydro-power will be about 25% of total generation capacity and other renewable generation will be about 15% of total generation capacity.

High levels of renewable generation increases the uncertainty of the amount of electricity produced in real time and it amplifies the reaction of the grid to small changes in operation condition due to the reduction of system inertia.  As the result, maintaining a stable grid operation will be far more challenging and ensuring high quality power supply will become increasing more difficult. The updated infrastructure will help improve grid operation by providing a digital platform for better modelling of the grid, reliable and robust control schemes, and optimised decision-making process. Specifically, the new solution can help improve protection, increase data collection from the field, expand power transfer capability, address voltage problems often associated with the change of flow direction caused by distributed energy, and help automatically identify faults.

What part will ABB play in this upgrade? 

ABB will provide the telecommunication infrastructure and the SCADA/ADMS equipment. It will provide devices such as RTUs, mission critical communication and network systems, and real time control system for managing distribution grid. The company will also be the technology solution provider and work with partners and system integrators to provide a turnkey solution. We will be involved in all aspects of the project, be directly responsible for the design and build of the systems, and provide support to the installation and commissioning of the systems in the field.

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