Editorial - VGB PowerTech Journal 4/2015

Engineering services – A companion on the path of change!

Reliable and affordable energy supply is a key success factor for a prospering German economy. Since the turnaround in German energy policy (Energiewende), conventional energy producers and network operators are facing specific challenges. Apart from adjusting the electrical grids to the new environment, the need for general flexibility along the entire energy supply chain is one of the core challenges. This requirement is driven by the fact that storage of electrical energy is still very complex and expensive compared to other forms of energy. The integration of steadily increasing capacities of fluctuating renewable energy sources in the system requires significant improvement of the flexibility and dynamics of thermal power plants. To ensure system reliability requirements and to provide residual load, conventional power plants remain to be of great importance. This calls for flexible operation, frequently near the limit of the plant. To demonstrate the dynamic control capabilities and to prove compliance with the grid code, it is necessary to simulate system behaviour by conducting static and dynamic grid calculations. Particularly with dynamic grid calculations, professional engineers can provide deep insights into the causes and effects of dynamic changes and can develop proposals for economically viable solutions for marketing power and system services.

Furthermore, adjustment of the power transmission and distribution grid is required. Grid reconstruction and reinforcement measures are triggered by the change in the power generation portfolio and must be implemented on a fast track. Innovative business models need to be developed and complemented by innovative technical engineering solutions in order to result in the right investments.

The coordinated control of increasingly decentralised electricity production and the integration of a variety of storages and conventional thermal plants will inevitably lead to an increased dependency on well working information technology systems. Therefore, confidentiality, availability and integrity of data (IT Security) become increasingly important. For the plant operator the complexity of this issue is often not immediately apparent. IT Security does not only mean attack scenarios but also includes other conditions like recovery systems, data backup structures, structural and organisational measures and resource planning. ISO/IEC 27001 (2015-03) and the BSI Standards 100-1/2/3, provide a structured overview about possible risk potentials in IT infrastructure.

Another challenge related to the concept of operational safety is the design, specification, verification and operation of safety systems that comply with IEC/EN 61508, which describes functional safety of E/E/PE systems. Derived from this standard, the norms IEC/EN 61511 for process systems and the DIN EN 50156 for combustion facilities are of importance for conventional power plants.

The above-mentioned topics are only a small share of the new requirements for power generators and grid operators who also have to focus on their main task: the operation of their plants and systems under the prevailing market conditions and regulations in compliance with safety requirements. This is a permanent challenge in terms of reduced staff and O&M budgets. To meet these challenges, operators must be ready to accept the outsourcing of tasks and duties, and to integrate external engineering and service companies in the daily work and projects. The external service provider must understand himself as a trusted partner of operators and must be well aware of the low budgets and staff numbers of their customers. Particularly the increasing number of small projects does not leave much scope for pure consulting engineers. Engineering and services companies have to fully understand their customer’s business and have to be prepared to offer complete and complex solutions as a single provider. The service provider can offer turnkey projects in the classical approach or in the increasingly popular “Open Book” procedure.

VPC GmbH, the former Vattenfall Europe Power Consult, an international engineering company with an excellent reputation in the energy sector, offers a comprehensive service portfolio. Since April 1, 2014, VPC is owned by the financial investor “palero capital” and is one of the largest independent engineering companies in Germany.