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Constructing an Energy Digital Foundation to Empower an Intelligent Electric Power Industry

Author: Yang Na Source: Originally published on China Electric Power News

China's New Infrastructure Policy guides the digital transformation of the country's industries, representing a wealth of opportunities for Huawei's Enterprise Business Group (BG). But in the dynamic, wider international market, how does Huawei Enterprise BG position itself and capitalize on its technical strengths to help global electric power customers address challenges and embrace a period of fresh development?

Huawei shared its perspectives on its growth and business strategy insights in a roundtable interview with China Electric Power News. Below are the highlights of the interview with two Huawei Enterprise BG executives, Lu Yongping, Deputy Executive President of the Global Energy Business Unit and Xia Wenbo, Chief Digital Transformation Officer for the Global Energy Industry.

China Electric Power News: Huawei Enterprise BG was established ten years ago. Today, what is its strategy to respond to the ever-changing market in digital transformation?

Lu Yongping: After a decade of continuous exploration and innovation, we have achieved large-scale rapid growth. We have also gained in-depth industry experience. Now, Huawei has a clear positioning for the Enterprise BG and has set new strategic objectives.

The Enterprise BG will be the preferred digital transformation partner for global governments and enterprise customers and partners. We will achieve this by designing and implementing targeted strategies, developing scenario-specific solutions, focusing on customer and partner satisfaction, and working together to achieve business success.

As we pivot towards this new strategy, we will continue to address the digital and intelligent needs of industry customers, as well as collaborate with partners. Together, we have the chance to seize new opportunities and, by responding quickly, to be the frontrunner in global digital transformation. Internally, Huawei has over 90,000 Research and Development (R&D) staff, who are the driving force behind innovation in digital transformation for diverse industries. Capitalizing on their skills and expertise, we will develop scenario-specific solution capabilities and foster a robust ecosystem with partners.

China Electric Power News: The energy industry faces several challenges, including model transformation, as well as the demand for low carbon emissions and high security and efficiency. How can Huawei leverage its world-leading big data, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 5G technologies to help the industry respond to these challenges?

Lu Yongping: There is a long journey from Information and Communications Technology (ICT) advancement, to scenario-specific power ICT solutions, to commercial use that addresses power industry challenges and brings business success. This cannot be accomplished overnight and involves multiple partners and stakeholders.

Huawei Enterprise BG implements a “Platform + AI + Ecosystem” strategy. Together with our partners, we are delivering ubiquitous connectivity and pervasive intelligence to our electric power customers. HUAWEI CLOUD and the Horizon Digital Platform integrate new ICT, such as cloud computing, IoT, big data, AI, and 5G, to build a foundation for the digital world and the energy sector, fostering its digital transformation.

The intelligent world is fast approaching and we are promoting the implementation of new ICT in the power industry with customers and partners. This will ensure secure and stable power grids, support large-scale access to new energy sources, improve grid operational efficiency, and help customers develop new value-added services.

By the end of 2019, we had more than 28,000 global partners — covering system integration, software, third-party dedicated hardware, industry standards organizations, professional training and development, investment, and financing. Our partners contribute 86% of our total sales volume. In the future, we look forward to continuing the journey with our partners, through a flexible, collaborative, and win-win ecosystem.

China Electric Power News: We know that Huawei has been extensively involved in the digital transformation of electric power companies. Through strategic cooperation and joint innovation labs with the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) and China Southern Power Grid (CSG), Huawei has developed a wide range of 5G slicing service scenarios for power grids. What are the challenges in planning and selecting industry-specific slicing deployment? What are Huawei’s competitive advantages?

Xia Wenbo: The joint innovation labs of Huawei and electric power companies address challenges throughout the electric power industry, such as the Internet of Vehicles (IoV), virtual power plants, and smart inspection. Huawei’s new ICT helps meet power grid requirements, build more secure, reliable, efficient, and green grids, increase user satisfaction, and build an industry-leading energy Internet.

5G is one of the focuses of joint innovation and has attracted attention for three main reasons.

Firstly, 5G leads to wider connectivity. Power grids become networked and digital, and the ratio of clean energy is increasing, especially the rapid growth of distributed Photovoltaics (PV). Intelligent distribution network and users’ informatization needs are growing rapidly, with data exchange occurring frequently. As such, there is significant demand for advanced communications technology with fast deployment and wide connectivity.

Secondly, 5G allows for low latency. For example, power applications, such as distribution automation and teleprotection, require high security and low latency.

Thirdly, 5G expands bandwidth. Digital office functions, new service operations, cloud-based data centers, smart homes, and integrated energy services will increase network traffic nearly 100-fold.

5G offers a data transformation model with wide connectivity, low latency, high reliability, and large bandwidth. Therefore, 5G grid applications will prosper in the future.

However, 5G grid applications are now facing technical and economic challenges. For one thing, grid applications require large uplink and small downlink bandwidth, which is the opposite of individual user applications. Some scenarios, such as line inspection, are located in remote areas where networks may be unavailable. Therefore, 5G network planning, construction, and operations need to adapt to new grid scenarios. Elsewhere, various industries also need to implement 5G applications. If only the electric power industry embraces 5G while others lag behind, 5G grid applications will remain expensive and wasteful of resources, hindering deployment. Other industries are actively studying 5G application scenarios. We hope that, together, we can engage in 5G deployment to capitalize on its potential and achieve social digital transformation.

Huawei has four strengths in terms of 5G industrial applications. First, we provide full-stack, all-scenario solutions from top-layer architecture to bottom-layer chips. Second, we have world-leading maturity in 5G large-scale commercial use. Third, continuous investment in R&D and cooperation with global standards organizations position us in the lead for the evolution of 5G technologies. Fourth, we have gained an in-depth industry understanding through a wide range of best practices with partners.

China Electric Power News: How does China’s smart grid construction rank in the world? Will Huawei adopt different strategies in the various power markets outside China?

Lu Yongping: To date, over 190 electric power companies in 73 countries and regions enjoy Huawei's new ICT products and solutions. Conditions and implementation stages vary depending on the country or region, and electric power industries may be at different development, informatization, and digitalization levels. China may not rank first in smart grid construction, but it is one of the top countries in terms of digital power applications.

Globally, most electric power companies have completed or are undergoing automation and informatization, and will rapidly move to the digitalization and intelligence stages. Countries find themselves at different starting points, process stages, and paths. Therefore, we tailor solutions for our customers and help them plan their digital transformation framework, with phased implementation based on customer requirements, development stage, budget, and other conditions.

For developing countries in Africa and Southeast Asia, Huawei provides power transmission and transformation communications, and dispatching data center solutions to resolve grid coverage and optimization issues. For some countries in the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, we are working with partners to explore projects such as power distribution IoT, intelligent inspection, cloud-based applications, and digital services.

China Electric Power News: “Black swan” events have occurred frequently, and the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic continue to linger. How can Huawei help power companies ensure power supply and grid security under ever-changing conditions?

Xia Wenbo: The pandemic has highlighted the need for digital transformation. With this momentum in mind, enterprises are rapidly shifting priorities.

China has maintained a stable power supply throughout the period of pandemic prevention and control. Electric power companies have used technology and efficient management to fulfil mandates, for example rapidly meeting power supply needs during the construction of Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, and delivering remote command, dispatch, and communications during hospital operations.

Why has China's power system remained intact during the pandemic? This is thanks to its strong ICT foundation. Two-site three-center dispatch systems, unmanned intelligent substations, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), remote command, online customer services, and other digital means have minimized the impact of the pandemic on grids.

Aside from the pandemic, electric power companies face other security challenges, such as typhoons, floods, freezing temperatures, and other natural disasters.

Huawei harnesses new connectivity, computing, and platforms based on 5G, IoT, AI, cloud computing, and other technologies. Taken together with our new ecosystem, we aim to resolve issues emerging throughout the energy industry. For example, IoT deployment on a conventional power grid enables intelligent grid visualization of all data in the generation, transmission, transformation, distribution, and consumption processes. Meanwhile, 5G-powered and optical networks function as the ‘neural network’ of the grid, which enables data flow to the intelligent dispatch and operation center. The center analyzes and applies data using Huawei cloud computing, big data, and AI, making the grid more secure, efficient, and intelligent.

China Electric Power News: We believe that Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) integration will drive Industry 4.0. What are Huawei's achievements in power distribution IoT, power big data centers, and integrated energy services?

Lu Yongping: The next wave of upgrades by electric power companies will focus on distribution and consumption IoT. In the past two years, we have worked closely with SGCC to build a next generation distribution and consumption IoT technology system, using our technical strengths in chips, IoT communications, and edge computing. This system visualizes, measures, and manages low-voltage distribution networks.

The past decade has seen a constant increase in renewable energy power generation. However, the early stage of renewable energy development had to give up a lot of wind and solar power due to low power quality. For success, it is crucial to accurately predict wind and PV power output. Originally, equipment companies would develop independent output prediction systems that used real-time meteorological data. However, the resulting predictions were not accurate, due to limited data processing capabilities. To solve this issue, we help customers improve data processing.

A great example is the new energy data center system and big data analytics platform at the SGCC Qinghai branch. In 2019, Qinghai province set a record in clean energy supply, by maintaining 100% clean energy power — hydropower, PV, and wind power — for 15 days, through the combination of accurate output predictions and complementary hydropower and energy storage.

Huawei is now a leader in many segmented fields, such as data centers, clean energy utilization, solar inverters, and fast charging modules for charging piles. Using our edge computing and cloud service capabilities, and together with our partners, we have launched coordinated charging gateways and charging service platforms. This addresses Operations and Maintenance (O&M) challenges for the large-scale deployment of charging piles, and supports distribution network capacity expansion at a lower cost.

The opportunities for a future energy Internet are unprecedented. Huawei will continue to call upon its ICT expertise and the latest power electronics technologies to provide integrated solutions for customers in the electric power industry, as well as other upstream and downstream sectors. Together, we will help integrate the electric power and communications industries, use their advantages, and create new value.