Interview: Shishir Shekhar

Shishir Shekhar,
Senior Global Market Manager – Utilities & Energy at MathWorks

“In a few lines, what does your company offer to the sector and how many years has it been doing it?”

MathWorks is focused on offering engineers and scientists’ tools and technologies that allow them to do their best work. Our products, MATLAB and Simulink are used extensively - in power & energy industry to develop and implement power system models, analyze big data, and automate processes, and develop embedded control and signal processing applications for industrial and energy-related equipment.

Globally, engineers and scientists at energy research labs, utilities and renewable energy companies use MATLAB and Simulink to innovate and develop state-of-the-art applications in the areas of grid integration, grid analytics and monitoring and control; as part of their grid modernization and digitization initiatives. For example, there is increased installation of sensors in the field, which is generating new data. Engineers are using machine learning, deep learning and physical modeling techniques in MATLAB and Simulink to analyze this data and develop predictive maintenance solutions; to predict equipment failures and estimate Remaining Useful Life (RUL) for their assets. This helps them categorize their equipment based on risk and develop replacement strategies.

“The pandemic we are living through has affected several sectors dramatically. How do you think it has affected your company and the energy market?”

The pandemic has impacted almost every organization in some way. For us, a major focus through this has been on continuing to offer tools and technologies help engineers and scientists design, simulate, and deploy tomorrow’s utility and energy infrastructure. When it comes to energy industry, specially the utilities and renewable energy markets, we are noticing that COVID-19 is acting as a catalyst and accelerating Digital Transformation. For example, companies are continuing to or now giving consideration to increasing investment in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing to improve their operations and maintenances practices and to increase safely standards.

For example, Transpower, a leading electric transmission company in New Zealand used MATLAB and Simulink to develop Reserve Management Tools, which runs every 30 minutes and calculates the reserve power needed to ensure reliable operation of New Zealand’s power grid. Siemens Corporate Technology in India used Machine Learning, Image Processing tools in MATLAB and the concept of convective heat transfer to estimate the amount of oil in transformer tank and developed Distribution Transformer Health Monitoring Solution. By using technology, companies are able innovate, improve efficiency and reduce costs.

“What have been the main developments in the energy sector and in your market niche in particular since 2000?”

We are seeing digital transformation in the energy sector. With climate change, the electric utilities and oil and gas companies are investing in renewable energy, battery storage and smart grid technologies. These technologies demand new capabilities and are triggering new business models and regulatory frameworks. Based on different projects with customers, we envision that the utility of the future will be a smarter and digital; as data collection and exchange from the grid is growing rapidly.AI and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are opening opportunities for new product and service offerings like energy forecasting, predictive maintenance, power plant model validation; in the areas of grid analytics, renewables/storage integration, remote monitoring and control. MathWorks works with electric utilities and energy companies globally on their grid modernization and digital transformation initiatives.

MathWorks provides technologies such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning, IoT and Digital Twins to leading companies and research Institutes, such as Shanghai Electric, Hydro Quebec RWE to PNNL and Sandia National Laboratories, for their digital transformation projects in areas of energy forecasting, predictive maintenance, virtual power plants/energy management systems, identifying system disturbances using PMU data, to name a few.

“In 10 years’ time… could you give us an insight into what is to come in the energy sector in the future?”

As I had mentioned earlier, a digital revolution has come to the power industry. Gartner report said, “Four years ago, AI implementation was rare, only 10% of survey respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or would do so shortly. For 2019, that number has leapt to 37% — a 270% increase in four years.”

A recent International Renewable Energy Agency report mentions that the role of AI in power systems is rapidly becoming a “necessity,”. We believe, AI can help integrate variable renewables into the grid by predicting generation and consumption patterns. Reductions in uncertainty in power production forecasts and power demand forecasts enable smarter operations. Unexpected curtailment can be reduced, and planned maintenance can be scheduled at optimal times. For example, Naturgy a large utility in Spain and Merrill Lynch used AI and Machine Learning tools in MATLAB to build and optimize their power demand and supply models, by incorporating historical data, weather forecasts, and regulatory rules. By using AI algorithms, they were able to improve the accuracy of their short-term and medium-term forecasts. Another example VGen Co Ltd in South Korea developed Virtual Power Plant (VPP) Management System using Machine Learning in MATLAB.

Interview 23/02/2021 by News Bureau
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