Millions of people rely on VERBUND AG’s electricity, generated almost completely from climate-friendly hydropower and supplemented with wind and thermal power. VERBUND, along with its subsidiary companies and partners, is involved throughout the energy lifecycle from generation and transport to international trade and distribution.
VERBUND operates 129 hydropower plants in Austria and Germany that have a combined capacity of about 8,200 megawatts (MW). The energy provider manages facilities and assets spread across rugged, mountainous terrain in the Alps and along large rivers including the Danube (Donau) and Mur. VERBUND, which has the largest and most powerful high-voltage grid in Austria, and produces 33 billion kWh of electricity each year in Austria and Germany.
Demand for predictable electricity despite nature’s unpredictability
Being a sustainable energy producer means VERBUND is subject to the unpredictable rhythms of nature that are not necessarily aligned with the needs and demands of people and their electricity usage. To adapt to the intermittency of renewable power generation systems, the energy provider had to determine how to update their mission critical communications infrastructure while maintaining service to their customers, meeting imperative performance requirements, and preventing unnecessary outages.
Facing an urgent need to upgrade their end-of-life telecommunication assets and transition to a modern digitalized mission-critical communications system, VERBUND was ready to migrate from their legacy TDM infrastructure to a state-of-theart packet-switched network and to better integrate their distributed energy resources (DERs). The 75-year-old energy company recognized the profound potential of digital transformation for updating their infrastructure, securely integrating traditional applications with newer operational technology, increasing availability, and reducing operational spending.
As part of their modernization effort, the electricity producer also considered how to future-proof their network and make their grid more resilient so they could quickly adapt to capitalize on new opportunities or rise to meet unanticipated demands.
Due to their unique challenges and the breadth of their operations, VERBUND knew it would be no small feat to modernize their mission-critical communications system while maintaining quality of service and consistently delivering power to their customers who rely on their electricity every day.
The company already had built a strong relationship and deep trust with system integrator K-Businesscom AG, who connected them with Hitachi Energy. VERBUND sought a partner who could deliver an end-to-end solution and shared their dedication to protecting natural resources. Given Hitachi Energy’s own commitment to a net-zero-carbon future, VERBUND trusted the company to understand their sustainable energy emphasis and provide solutions that pave the way for future modernization and digitalization efforts.
VERBUND, Hitachi Energy, and system integrator K-Businesscom AG are scheduled to collaborate on a project through 2031, with Hitachi Energy supplying mission-critical communications products, training, and support over the next decade.
MPLS-TP solution empowers VERBUND’s network today and tomorrow.
As VERBUND’s equipment based on synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) neared end-of-life, the electricity company saw it as an opportunity to ready their network for future technologies. For decades SDH has been the technology standard for mission-critical communications in power utility networks. Nevertheless, as the networking needs of utilities and other vital industries have evolved so too have the technologies designed to meet those requirements.
Packet-based technology using the multiprotocol label switching - transport profile (MPLS-TP) standard offers a resilient, deterministic and highly scalable platform that reduces complexity, capital expenditures (CapEx) and operating expenses (OpEx) while enabling enhanced security with teleprotection at the packet level.
VERBUND selected the Hitachi Energy FOX615 multiservice platform because it allowed for the best combination of time division-multiplexing (TDM) for legacy applications and packetswitched access and transport technology. The hybrid functionality of the platform let VERBUND implement both SDH and MPLS-TP in parallel on one node, separating traffic according to performance requirements. This enables VERBUND to interconnect their new packetswitched network to existing SDH networks of neighboring countries that are still operating on TDM-based SDH technology.
By migrating their legacy SDH system to a flexible MPLS-TP network with a backbone of 40 Gbit/s bandwidth capacity, VERBUND now can quickly adapt to any unknowns they might encounter in a dynamic and changing market.
For example, VERBUND uses various renewable sources to generate electricity and has a long-term strategy to use green hydrogen as part of their energy mix. As they add new generation sources and expand their operations, the electricity producer can avoid issues related to lack of backward compatibility and be confident that their system is future proof.
Security is another key concern for essential power utilities. Cyber-attacks and other issues demand greater levels of security to match increasingly sophisticated and prevalent threats. Hitachi Energy’s application focused FOX615 solution delivers integrated teleprotection for distance as well as differential protection applications.
Not only is performance guaranteed over any network technology, but the solution also comes with a fail-safe implementation to avoid maloperation of the application in case massive problems occur in the operational communications network. For additional security, all transmitted line protection signals are natively authenticated to impede man-in-the middle, replay and spoofing attacks.
During a proof-of-concept was tested in which the performance of the line protection applications were tested in terms of channel symmetry, dependability (Pmc) and security (Puc), VERBUND was convinced that the Hitachi Energy solution was right for their network after they saw how well FOX615 could continue to transmit critical data within the performance requirements over a packet-switched network during a worstcase scenario in which the network was fully stressed by network overload and insertion of defined asymmetries and bit errors.
Seamless migration optimizes cost and power savings
The green power supplier found that the Hitachi Energy solution delivers additional cost-saving and energy-saving benefits as well. Thanks to the high access and transport capacity of the scalable platform, VERBUND replaced 500 of their legacy nodes with only 350 FOX615 nodes – 30% fewer - that are designed to have extremely low power consumption. The Hitachi Energy solution consumes approximately 50% less power than alternative products in the utility segment.
Because the FOX615 solution provides multiservice-technology and integrated teleprotection devices in one system, it eliminates the need to purchase external teleprotection devices. As a result, it reduces the number of devices and drastically simplifies the management of these nodes by network managers, as well as improves the overall system availability and performance.
FOX615 also includes the user-friendly FOXMAN-UN network management system. FOXMAN-UN empowered VERBUND to minimize network maintenance with sophisticated automation and supervision features, such as scheduled firmware distribution and remote activation, a comprehensive view of the synchronization status of FOX615 network elements, a graphical representation of the communication network, and performance monitoring of links.
The network management system has an intuitive graphical user interface that makes it easy for network operators to use, regardless of their experience.
VERBUND gained additional benefits from the Hitachi Energy solution including:
- Five 9s availability. FOX615 offers a time-tested, robust design capable of maintaining high service availability and functioning accurately while withstanding the rigors of extreme environments. The solution offers hardware redundancy for all core functionalities, as well as provides sophisticated service protection schemes to ensure redundancy for all types of service topologies and the shortest switchover times, including hitless switchover for critical line protection applications.
- Application-centric expertise. Hitachi Energy’s deep application understanding underlies the solution’s guaranteed performance, even when the network is under stress. In a utility business, any failure to meet applicationspecific requirements can have severe implications, such as a possible power blackout and commercial impacts to businesses and disappointed end users. To prevent those issues, FOX615 has been successfully type-tested by independent test laboratory KEMA against the environmental conditions and standards that apply within the power utility segment.
- Simplified training. Network managers and other staff can easily learn the FOX615 solution thanks to its integration of multiple technologies and teleprotection modules all within a single device. VERBUND received 20 days of remote training from a highly acclaimed Hitachi Energy University trainer, helping employees enhance their competency with Hitachi Energy solutions and to learn the new MPLS-TP technology.
- Longevity. The long active lifecycle of the FOX615 solution, backed by Hitachi Energy’s guarantee to maintain the availability and technical support of the platform components for at least 15 years, means VERBUND can face an unpredictable environment with predictable support, flexibility, and resilience. Usage of high-grade industrial components and special engineering measures ensure a long equipment life.
- Flexibility and Scalabilty. VERBUND takes their commitment to their customers and to the environment seriously, providing sustainable energy while continuing to update their plants and systems for greater efficiency, security, and operational capabilities in a dynamic industry. With the Hitachi Energy solution, the electricity producer has a modular, flexible platform that is scalable to meet new and emerging needs. They can maintain the reliability of their existing operations while fluidly meeting both anticipated and unforeseen future requirements of a renewable energy industry that continues to evolve swiftly. Together, we’re advancing sustainable energy for all.
Hitachi Energy provides solutions that are purpose-built for mission-critical communications, and we offer extensive expertise in helping system operators transition their critical networks from SDH to MPLS-TP securely and reliably while simplifying the evolution to digital applications.
Contact us to learn more about Hitachi Energy communications solutions for utilities or about the Hitachi Energy FOX multiservice platform.
VERBUND is Austria’s leading company and one of the largest producers of electricity from hydropower in Europe. Close to 100% of the electricity generation comes from climate friendly, renewable hydropower.
Since 1947, VERBUND – founded as Österreichische ElektrizitätswirtschaftsAG - has been helping to shape the energy future: even back then we relied on hydropower and thus renewable energies.
Today, more than 70 years later, VERBUND is the largest and climatefriendliest producer of electricity in Austria. Almost 100% of the electricity comes from hydropower, supplemented with wind and thermal power.
Extends existing infrastructure while ensuring easy migration and integrated teleprotection
SUSTAINABILITY + SIMPLICITY
Less operational complexity, expense, and power consumption with a 30% reduction in the number of nodes needed
Teleprotection and end-to-end encryption while meeting real-time requirements of critical applications
Reduced cost of ownership: multi-technology solution and integrated teleprotection mean fewer devices are purchased
A multiservice solution means workers only need to be trained on one type of equipment
100+ years of experience in missioncritical communications