CIGRE Paris 2022 interview with Domenico Villani of KEMA Labs and CESI

Transformers Magazine proudly presents an interview with Domenico Villani, Executive Board Director of KEMA Labs – Testing, Inspection and Certification Division – and Executive Vice President at CESI.


Domenico Villani CESI interview

On the photo: Domenico Villani at CIGRE Paris 2022

Transformers Magazine proudly presents an interview with Domenico Villani, Executive Board Director of KEMA Labs – Testing, Inspection and Certification Division – and Executive Vice President at CESI.

Do you have any new services / products that you are introducing here?

Of course, we are showcasing SF6-replacement technologies, natural esters in transformers, HVDC transmission grids, and the fast-growing e-mobility industry that has enabled KEMA Labs to embrace the current new challenges. As the global leader in independent testing for the electricity sector, we have to participate in the development stage of new products, systems, and solutions and, therefore, constantly follow new strategic market developments. Several changes are nowadays influencing new T&D infrastructures design, but the common factor is one: a sustainable energy transition!

Did you have any significant investments in manufacturing, R&D, etc.?

The constant development of new and existing solutions is the key success factor of KEMA Labs. To be up to date with our labs and competencies, we must work with our customers in the early stage of the R&D process. That way, we can reduce the time to market our products and solutions. On average, we invest up to 10 % of our yearly revenues and, on top of that, we frequently have special and strategic investment programs for new laboratories.

We have recently extended our HVDC testing capabilities (new test bays and performance of the first TOV test) to support the significant growth of investments that our clients are putting in this sector. Renewable Energy Sources (RES) are the direction to follow if we want to successfully decarbonize the energy industry and cut off the chain with fossil fuels. The power grid also needs investments in new infrastructures, and it especially needs reliable assets in operation. Outages are not an option.

Another strategic industry that is running towards the goal of decarbonization is transportation. To support this transition, KEMA Labs have developed a new test bench for automotive products, battery packs, and storage systems covering the entire e-mobility value chain.

How is your business going? What is the current situation in your markets?

The TIC industry has faced significant challenges over the last two years. The pandemic period has boosted new ways of communication as well as the development of testing, inspection, and certification campaigns. Notwithstanding these recent challenges, we are pleased to notice that our customers immediately re-started in 2021, investing in new products and technologies, confirming their trust in our services. In this respect, KEMA Labs has been one of the first to introduce the remote testing experience within its laboratories in a clientless configuration, while keeping strong the main pillar of impartiality, quality, and reliability.

Moreover, the market is changing paradigm in T&D as new technologies are introduced to develop digital substations and digital T&D components. Non-conventional instrument transformers with digital sampled value outputs are replacing the conventional analog types. Circuit-breakers have integrated IEDs for protection, control, and status monitoring. Power transformers are equipped with all kinds of sensors to monitor temperature, oil pressure, current flows, etc. To support the change, testing products is not enough. The next level is testing systems. At KEMA Labs, we are already there with our digital laboratories, namely the FLEX Power Grid Lab, and others.

What are the major issues in your business? Is it a supply chain or something else?

The supply chain is, of course, impacting the R&D plan of several clients of ours. If you think for example to all those clients involved in the Power Electronic devices, IEDs, Metering, Protection equipment, and others, for which KEMA Labs is the leading Testing, Inspection, and Certification player through its Services and Smart Technologies Business unit, they are suffering delivery of critical components for their technology.

In this challenging moment, in which pandemic times, unpredictable geopolitical events and other unusual events are challenging our world, including the whole T&D industry, the most significant risk could be to compromise on quality and safety during both normal production and R&D. This is not an option.

What about your plans for the future? Is there anything significant? What do you expect of the market?

As we highlighted in the previous questions, significant changes are taking over in the different segments of the T&D industry in different segments. While new technologies take place, the need for standardization and update of type and design assessment becomes more and more important and as KEMA Labs our main priority is to be on the first line in developing international standards form the basis for testing and certification to achieve a harmonized and acceptable level of the quality of products that are procured and installed in the systems. For this reason, KEMA Labs is actively involved in process of development of IEC, IEEE, and other standards.

In parallel to the standard development, we have a long-term plan for our existing assets as well as for new ones that will be critical over the next years to support our clients in the green revolution already started.

Maybe the most important topic this year is sustainability. TM is organizing a conference on this topic in October this year. How are you preparing for offering more sustainable products and services?

If we look at the big picture, sustainability is “the ability to maintain or support a process over time”. This is exactly the goal for KEMA Labs, the whole TIC industry, manufacturers, and TSOs and DSOs.

In this respect, it is crucial that every product is properly tested. At KEMA Labs, we can tell you that on average 25 % of products reaching our labs fail the first time.

By continuously investing in new labs and test methodologies, by leading the maintenance of existing and new international standards we can really make a difference and contribute to helping either our clients to offer more sustainable products, and utilities to reduce OPEX operating T&D infrastructures safely and reliably avoiding large scale outages.