Written By: Marilyn Ramirez, Business Development Manager
Over the years, transmission planning has become more complex. We often see new regulations enacted in response to real world events or to keep up with changing trends in the industry. From NERC standards ensuring the quality of reliability study assessments to standards requiring our awareness of the effect of astronomical events on the transmission system, these regulations play an important role in fostering the resiliency of our power grid. We can all agree, as certain as death and taxes, transmission planning regulations will only become more complex over time. Yet, it is becoming harder to complete these studies relying solely on a utility’s existing staff.
While the tools of the trade improve almost daily, the increasing complexity of transmission studies demands more time from transmission planning engineers. Whether screening input data, formatting input for use with software tools, or analyzing output, transmission planning studies now take more time and energy to execute. Certainly, automation tools, both commercial and home grown, work to ease the burden of increased study complexity. But in the end, automation requires special expertise and still requires the preparation of properly formatted quality input, as well as analysis of output data.
So what is the solution to the growing complexity of transmission planning studies in combination with utility staff keeping up with study demands? One solution is to outsource the arduous portions of the study process to a qualified third party. Allow industry experts from an outside firm to quality check, format input data, and parse mountains of output. Utilizing qualified engineering contractors, such as those at Power Grid Engineering, can relieve the burden of editing text file input or scanning hundreds of pages of output. Utility engineers can gather information quickly from concise reports that have already been prepared instead of spending hours churning through the study process.
Transmission planning regulations will continue to grow more complex over time as the industry remains committed to grid reliability. Software and automation can assist with growing study complexity and increased time and resources necessary to run those studies, but software can only do so much. Automation cannot replace the watchful eye of an experienced transmission planner; however, employing contracted engineers who can provide quality oversight and process execution will free utility staff from simply “turning the crank.” Imagine the possibilities of utility staff engineers who receive well-prepared reports and study packages, thus skipping weeks of work required during the study process, who can now utilize their time, skills, and knowledge for analysis, working to create high-level grid solutions.