Patrick Pitcher

Patrick Picher: Digitalization is impacting the energy sector

Digitalization, along with decentralization and decarbonization, is one of the three trends (3Ds) impacting the global energy sector. Because of their strategic importance in electrical networks, transformers will be a focus of international efforts in power asset digitalization, hence this special edition of Transformers Magazine.

CIGRE recognizes the importance of this topic for the electrical industry. In 2020, it created an advisory group within its Study Committee A2 (transformers) with the objective of developing a vision and a strategic road map with regards to transformer digitalization.

It is generally acknowledged by CEOs that the digital shift will significantly impact the power industry. However, digitalization strategies have to be properly executed in order to yield maximum benefits. All the essential elements of the digitalization value chain must be correctly implemented in a cybersecure manner, namely: data acquisition (i.e. sensors, IEDs, maintenance records, and design characteristics); data validation and storage; computational intelligence (i.e. anomaly detection, diagnostics, and prognostics); user interface (HMI); and last but not least, actionable information.

To support this transformation, the international transformer community should identify the processes in the transformer lifecycle that could benefit the most from digitalization and then define the priorities for future developments. Ongoing research and development activities with regards to advanced analytics (physical, statistical, artificial intelligence or hybrid modeling) will provide new opportunities to valorize the large amount of available data.

Looking ahead, digital transformation will foster the development and implementation of asset digital twins. This is another case where transformers will likely be identified as one of the top priorities. Simulating the multiphysical (thermal, dielectric, and mechanical) behavior of transformers in real time and integrating digital twins in utilities operation and maintenance systems will require an incredible degree of collaboration between manufacturers and utilities, as well as academic and research institutions. Working in silos is definitely not an option in this case. In order to carry out a successful digital transformation, the power delivery industry must work together like never before.

Dr. Patrick Picher, Hydro-Québec’s Research Institute IREQ

Dr. Patrick Picher has been working as a researcher and project manager at the Hydro-Québec’s Research Institute (IREQ) since 1999. His research interests are mainly focused on diagnostics, monitoring and modelling of power transformers. Since 2003, he was involved in several international CIGRE working groups related to transformer Frequency Response Analysis (FRA), thermal modelling, intelligent condition monitoring, condition assessment indices and the influence of geomagnetically induced current. He was Secretary of CIGRE Study Committee A2 (transformers) from 2010 to 2016 and he is now the Canadian representative on this committee. He graduated from Sherbrooke University, Canada, in 1993 with a B.Eng. in electrical engineering and received his PhD degree from École Polytechnique de Montréal, Canada, in 1997. Mr. Picher is a registered professional engineer and a member of IEEE (Senior Member), CIGRE and IEC TC 14 (Canadian mirror committee)