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Digital Made Real at DISTRIBUTECH 2023
By Anthony Allard
31-01-2023 | 6 min read

See us at DISTRIBUTECH to learn about real-world examples of digital solutions that are accelerating the clean energy transition

Every year, I look forward to attending DISTRIBUTECH, one of the largest transmission and distribution events in North America. It gives me the opportunity to engage in dialogue about the many exciting transformations and innovations happening in the energy industry. More than 10,000 people will gather in San Diego, California to discuss how governments, utilities, and companies of all kinds can accelerate the shift from fossil-based to renewable power generation. This shift is driven by the electrification of transportation, industry, and buildings sectors, which will collectively increase demand on power grids. The resulting energy system of the future will be very complex and diverse, with a wide variety of power sources and multi-directional power flows. Digitalization is the only way to manage this complexity.

Addressing this challenge is the focus of this year’s DISTRIBUTECH, where Hitachi Energy will be highlighting the latest innovations in distribution automation and digital grid technologies. We will show how these solutions are essential to delivering a sustainable energy future for all, through ‘Digital Made Real’, which is both a tagline and a mission. At Hitachi Energy, the clean energy transition is no longer an aspiration. ‘Digital Made Real’ means helping our customers solve very complex, real-world energy challenges using the industry’s most advanced digital tools and software solutions. 

Digital solutions for wildfire prevention

A great example of this process in action is the solution currently being deployed by our customers to address the challenge of wildfire prevention and mitigation. This topic is particularly relevant in Southern California, and specifically San Diego, where DISTRIBUTECH is being held this year.

Electrical infrastructure has unfortunately been identified as the cause of a number of large and damaging wildfires, which has put some utilities under legal and financial pressure. Hitachi has developed some really cool tools to help reduce these risks.

One is the Wireless Spark Prevention Unit (SPU) Indicator - introduced late last year - which provides real-time status updates on SPUs, products that monitor the current and thermal load of surge arresters and disconnect them from the network automatically in the event of an overload. This prevents any arcing, sparking, or discharge of hot particles that could start a fire. Hundreds of thousands of SPUs have already been installed in some of the world’s most wildfire-prone areas, like the West Coast of the U.S. and Australia, and are making a real impact. The addition of the wireless indicator allows utilities to monitor SPUs remotely, simplifying maintenance and replacement. We recently initiated a pilot deployment of this capability with a municipal utility customer in Northern California, which has been experiencing significant wildfire pressure.

Hitachi has also continued to expand the capabilities of its Lumada Inspection Insights portfolio, including the Hitachi Vegetation Manager, which leverages artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of efforts to reduce the risk of falling trees or limbs and other hazards. The solution uses photos, videos, and satellite imagery to allow utilities to cover and survey their entire territory to automatically and proactively address the risk of falling trees or limbs that could cause or contribute to wildfires and then dispatch their crews where they are most needed.

Digital solutions to manage the growing complexity of the energy system

One of the major topics at DISTRIBUTECH will be the need to manage an increasing variety of energy sources and generation assets, including growing volumes of wind and solar. Energy flows on the grid are becoming more variable, multi-directional, and complex, requiring utilities to capture insights with real-time data across transmission, distribution, energy storage, and other grid assets to make better decisions.

Utilities need to expand communications further into the field to be able to check the health of their equipment. Increasingly, they are turning to predictive analytics to identify vulnerable equipment before it fails, calculate the risk from weather-related outages and better direct their field service teams. At DISTRIBUTECH, Hitachi Energy will be showcasing a variety of digital solutions our customers can use to manage their assets, strengthen resiliency and reliability, and improve the efficiency of their operations.

Sustainable infrastructure

Another key theme at the show this year is transitioning to more sustainable infrastructure. Hitachi Energy continues to expand and enhance its EconiQ™ eco-efficient portfolio, which delivers exceptional environmental performance compared to conventional solutions, for instance, eliminating the use of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas in GIS systems with reliable and scalable solutions.

We are bringing this same eco-efficient mindset to our Transformers portfolio, introducing products that are eco-efficient by design, optimized for sustainability but also enhancing safety, protecting surrounding ecosystems, and supporting responsible use of resources. Through EconiQ services, environmental impact and carbon footprint throughout the lifecycle are significantly reduced.

Racing toward a carbon-neutral future

The electrification of the transportation sector is well underway, and Hitachi right is in the thick of it. For instance, we are working closely with utilities to assess the impacts of the new electricity demand that will accompany the electrification of truck and bus fleets. At the event, we will present some new findings from our collaboration with National Grid around the steps utilities and fleet operators can take to mitigate the impacts of this shift.

We have also focused on the development of solutions to support the rise of electric vehicle (EV) fleets, and the company continues to work with companies such as Penske on the deployment of EV charging infrastructure to electrify their fleets. We are very proud to share that we will be hosting a special guest at the show, the winningest active American driver in INDYCAR competition, Josef Newgarden of Team Penske, in our booth. So, if you’re in San Diego, stop by and see us at Booth #2929.

If you didn’t have enough reason to stop by our booth and say ‘hi’ already, I’m proud to share that Hitachi Energy will be donating $10 for every visitor badge we scan during the show (up to $10,000), to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego. So come by and learn how Hitachi Energy can help your company in your sustainability journey. Also, attend our speaking sessions which you can see on our event webpage.

  • Digitalization
  • Asset and Work Management
  • IdentiQ
  • Grid Edge Solutions
  • eMobility
  • Sustainability
  • Global
Anthony Allard
Managing Director United States; Head of North America

Allard was most recently chief operating officer of BECIS, a distributed energy solution provider in Singapore. Having spent most of his career in the power sector at GE and Alstom in the U.S., he held several executive-level positions, including general manager and board member for GE Prolec Transformers in the U.S. He was also general manager for the GE-XD High Voltage Products joint venture (JV) and spent 10 years working for Alstom Grid in both North America and the Americas in Strategy and Operations management roles.

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