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Building Next Generation, High-Quality Communication Networks for Future-Oriented Electric Power Systems


The electric power industry is closely related to a country's national interest and security as well as its people's livelihoods. As the key infrastructure of electric power systems, electric power communication networks must therefore be secure and reliable, in order to guarantee the secure and stable running of those systems. In this context, an advanced and future-oriented electric power communication network should be built, in order to help to guarantee the power supply, as well as support emerging electric power systems that include an increased proportion of new energy sources.

New Electric Power Systems Place Higher Demands on Electric Power Communication Networks

To cope with growing energy requirements as well as energy security, climate, and environmental challenges, the global electric power industry needs to implement energy transformation, zero-carbon transformation, and digital transformation. These transformations are long-term, difficult, and complex systematic projects, of course. But building a new electric power system is the key to carrying them out. This system is also the basis for achieving more economical energy, as well as a key method for ensuring energy security and continuity. Moreover, digital transformation is the only way to promote clean, efficient, and sustainable development for society at large, in terms of supporting efficient generation-grid-load-storage collaboration and integrating the flows of electrical energy, carbon emissions, information, and monetary value.

We believe that the future of the electric power industry lies in a front end — including power plants, substations, and lines — that is lesser-manned or even unmanned. Enterprises will therefore be able to optimize their processes and adjust their talent structure through digital transformation, without significantly increasing the workforce. This will allow manpower to be invested elsewhere, in innovation and complex services, improving operational efficiency. Meanwhile, on the service side, production control and management should be centralized to support secure and reliable electric power systems and efficient generation-grid-load-storage collaboration. This will also pave a way for improving the quality and efficiency of enterprise operations, along with fostering agile innovation in management. And on the group side, platformization and specialization should be promoted: platformization spurs ongoing innovation, while specialization helps accumulate capabilities. Additionally, by establishing systems, management and supervision can be integrated into services.

In any new electric power system, where the proportion of new energy is increasing, new energy access and a massive number of power and electronic devices make systems more complex. Power grid operations face many challenges, from uncertainty over the electric power balance to decreasing system inertia. Against this backdrop, electric power enterprises need to consider both new energy development and the secure and stable running of the electric power system. Accelerating the digital upgrade of systems effectively supports integrated generation-grid-load-storage development. Therefore, a more robust and flexible electric power communication network, supporting multi-service transport, is required to comprehensively sense new energy and flexible loads. With observable, measurable, adjustable, controllable, and traceable features, an electric power communication network can effectively support production as well as operations management and control, laying a solid foundation for the secure and stable running of the electric power system.

Digitalization Paves a Digital Road for Constructing New Electric Power Systems

The digital transformation of electric power systems is a project that must be led by top executives. Indeed, great importance should be attached to it at the strategic level. In strategic planning for the mid- and long-term development of electric power enterprises, an electric power communication network — the neural network of this new electric power system — should be incorporated into overall system planning and construction. Overall planning and systematic implementation should be performed. In addition, organizational leadership should be strengthened and the organization system should be improved to ensure effective investment and orderly implementation from the perspectives of strategic coordination and long-term development.

Cross-regional Alternating Current/Direct Current (AC/DC) hybrid connection and the widespread use of power and electronic devices have significantly changed the features of the electric power system. In the future, system scale and complexity will reach new heights. Digital ways and means, such as situational awareness, an extensive network of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, digital twins, and intelligent computing, are urgently needed to address intermittent and random, massive and discrete, complex and multi-dimensional, and uncontrollable fluctuation challenges in the new system. With these means, real-time dynamic balance can be achieved, better supporting a secure power supply along with efficient generation-grid-load-storage interaction. To achieve this goal, a robust electric power communication network must be built.

A Robust Electric Power Communication Network Is an Important Foundation for the Digitalization of New Electric Power Systems

In order to ensure the safe and stable operations of the power grid, many countries have promulgated laws and regulations. Taking China as an example, according to its mandatory national standard GB 38755-2019 Guidelines for Power System Security and Stability, released in 2019, three defense lines and corresponding control measures are defined for power grids, in order to guarantee safe and stable operations. Power grid construction strictly complies with this standard, and ceaselessly strengthens these three defense lines. Moreover, various relay protection and stability control devices have been configured and improved to prevent ripple effects of incidents, thereby avoiding power outages.

Three graphics that show the defense lines at the device, link, and network levels of electric power communication networks.

An electric power communication network also demands three defense lines for ensuring communication security. The first involves applying highly reliable communication technologies, such as a Native Hard Pipe (NHP) network, as well as adopting a redundancy protection design for key components of communication devices. When a component such as a, fan, switching board or power supply, is detected as faulty, the system immediately switches to the standby component to ensure normal device operations.

The second defense line is communication link redundancy protection. When a communication link is faulty, a damaged fiber for example, the communication devices at both ends of the link negotiate and switch services to a protection link. In this way, services can be quickly restored.

The third defense line is network-level redundancy protection. To prevent a large-scale network breakdown due to network attacks or other reasons, two independent communication networks need to be constructed. When the active network is faulty, the system quickly switches services to other available links. This significantly improves the survivability of core electric power services in extreme instances.

As the key infrastructure of the digital power grid, an electric power communication network should comply with a hierarchical redundancy design principle. In actual applications, the redundancy protection mode of an electric power communication network should be configured based on the voltage level of power transmission lines, to balance security and costs and optimize Return On Investment (ROI). For example, for high-voltage, extra-high voltage, and ultra-high voltage power transmission lines above 110 kV, the three defense lines should be configured to construct a highly reliable dual-plane communication network. For 35–110 kV high-voltage power transmission lines, network-level redundancy protection should be flexibly configured upon redundancy protection for communications devices and communications links based on the importance of the lines. For power distribution communication networks, redundancy protection for communications links should be implemented upon redundancy protection for communications devices, if possible.

By establishing three defense lines — device-level, link-level, and network-level protection — an electric power communication network can effectively cope with device, link, and network faults in various contexts, ensuring secure network operations.

To adapt to long-term electric power digitalization, an electric power communication network must be scalable as well. Network bandwidth should be high enough to support quick service rollout. Electric power subsystems must also be physically isolated so that the rollout of new services does not affect existing services. Finally, network performance metrics, such as latency and jitter, must meet the requirements of diversified electric power services.

An NHP-based multi-redundancy electric power communication network can meet both the security and future-oriented evolution needs of electric power digitalization. This network ensures that at least one communication connection is available in extreme cases and functions as an uninterrupted optical communication network for power grids, laying an important foundation for the digitalization of new electric power systems.

The Huawei Electric Power Digitalization Business Unit (BU) is committed to becoming the preferred partner for the digital transformation of the electric power industry. Relying on Huawei's advantages in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), and featuring device-edge-pipe-cloud synergy, Huawei adheres to a platform plus ecosystem strategy and works with partners to deeply integrate digital technologies with electric power services. In this way. Huawei helps electric power enterprises achieve secure, efficient, green, and innovative transformation and upgrades, paving a digital road forward for the global electric power industry.

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