Digital Twins – a Whole Life Approach

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Digital transformation has become an imperative in the energy industry to help address macro challenges such as security of supply, grid flexibility and market reforms to name a few. There is growing recognition among industry leaders, such as National Grid, EDF and SSE, that this transformation will require a different approach.

Major programmes such as ‘50GW by 30’, a policy ambition to increase offshore generation from just over 13GW today to 50GW by 2030, require a fourfold increase in offshore wind delivery. This will require a holistic approach to grid evolution and network design to effectively manage and operate intermittent generation from offshore and onshore wind, providing flexibility in the grid to optimise this type of distributed resource.

Achieving this level of integration across a diverse energy market will require generation, transmission, distribution, and distributed resources (such as solar panels) to be operated in unison, to change the focus of the energy system from being ‘supply led’ to ‘demand led’, whereby demand will be required to vary based on available supply, operating as a whole system.

This ambitious energy revolution can only be achieved through effective digital transformation and importantly, availability of data and information across a diverse value chain. For this reason, National Grid ESO have launched the Virtual Energy System (VES), which seeks to catalyse data sharing across the energy market harnessing the power of digital twins.  The VES will be built around an open framework providing consistency in key areas such as cyber security and governance, and creating a culture of collaboration, expanding on the concept of connected digital twins.

Of course, digital twins are themselves an evolving digital asset in the energy industry, with a slower adoption rate compared with other industries such as manufacturing where product lifecycle management approaches have been in use for some time and can be considered a type of digital twin.

In this paper, Industry leader Kevin Reeves explores the role of digital twins in the energy industry and how well proven manufacturing-based approaches can be adapted in the context of large asset owner / operators.


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