9 Must Have Generation Outage Management System Features

Posted by Versify Team

Outage management systems are becoming a core component of an energy company’s application landscape.  Just like Bid-to-Bill, EMS/SCADA, or ETRM systems, outage management systems support key business processes that are critical to an asset-centric company’s financial and operational success.

Versify-9-Generation-Outage-Management-System-Features.pngThe importance of a generation outage management system has been growing as companies have consolidated assets over time and responded to the surge of renewables development.  Complex, geographically diverse portfolios, increasing scrutiny on reliability by regulators and a greater reliance on capacity revenues have all led to a greater focus on effective outage management processes. 

Why is an Outage Management System (OMS) important?

An Outage Management System can provide transparency to the numerous groups across the organization such as the commercial, asset management, plant operations teams and regional ISO/RTOs. It can identify the best times for performing asset maintenance thus reducing lost market opportunities. Also, an OMS can prioritize field force activities and reduce administrative burden on field crews.

Other benefits include:

  • Reducing O&M costs
  • Reducing the frequency and duration of outages
  • Improving reliability and safety metrics
  • Reducing risk for field personnel
  • Eliminating redundant software costs
  • Providing visibility across business lines

So, what are the capabilities an Outage Management System should have to provide optimal business value?  In this article, we’ve compiled a list of a few of the top client requests that have come across our desks, emails and phone calls.

So here they are…

1. Automatically Calculating Availability and Segments

How can this be used?

This feature automatically calculates a generator’s MW availability on an hourly or sub hourly basis over the duration of the outage.   For example, during a single derate availability may vary from 50 MW at 00:00 - 08:00, and 55 MW at 08:00 - 11:00.  This eliminates the process of manually calculating availability and lets the OMS calculate availability for the submitted outages.

Some transmission and reliability coordinators (ISO/RTO) require multiple segments for the minimum availability of each hour.

And let’s not forget the importance of displaying the generation capacities by plant by hour.  Being able to review the availability by hour by plant across your fleet in a simple report or dashboard is important.  Having the availability refresh automatically and in real-time as operators adjust outages and traders develop their trading strategies is key in optimizing generation revenue.

2. Calculating Ambient Derates

Fossil, solar and wind assets all experience periodic reductions in availability based on ambient conditions.

An OMS can use a plant’s capability curve and integrated weather forecasts (NOAA) to automatically calculate hourly capability.

Let the Outage Management System do the legwork.

3. Automating Business Workflow and Compliance

Why does this matter?

Automating complex business processes across multiple organizational units can be challenging.  Many of today’s companies use emails, paper forms, spreadsheet and phone calls.  This results in human error, miscommunications and lost opportunities to optimize a generating fleet’s potential revenue.

To help solve this problem, technology has stepped in to provide business process automation with configurable workflows.  Workflow capability has become one of the leading technology tools to facilitate business process improvement efforts across all industries.  Why not bring it forward to the energy industry?  The requests we hear most often from clients are “Can you help us automate this process?” “How can we streamline this process?” “How can we make this flow better and faster?”

Workflows come to the rescue.  Today’s tools can map out simple-to-complex business processes, automating processes such as reviews and approvals, notifications, escalations, logging and compliance

Workflows can reduce the likelihood of offering capacities into the market that cannot be delivered due to rescheduled or extended outages.  They can also improve the coordination and planning of outage scheduling, as multiple business stakeholders are involved in the process.

Why?

It’s about improving commercial performance.  Reducing the likelihood of taking outages at the wrong time, offering capacities into the market that cannot be delivered, or rescheduling or extending outages due to lack of coordination. 

These are scenarios where a workflow tool can be leveraged to walk traders, operators and/or plant personnel through the necessary steps in the business process.

Not only can workflows be leveraged for daily business process, but they can also be used for compliance of NERC CIP and other compliance requirements.  Audit history can be logged for all activities and approvals.  Evidence can be attached to the workflows and maintained for future reference and audits.    Functionality includes tracing and recording evidence, mapping to NERC Standards & Requirements and providing reports for the auditors.

These functions and processes leverage workflow technology for improving the reliability of the grid and grid operations.

4. Submitting Outages to Multiple Markets

Why not a one-stop application for all your outage needs?

Let the OMS solution maintain all the enterprise outages from a single application that can submit and synchronize outages across ALL the ISO, RTO and reliability coordinators.  Stop the manual process of logging in to separate portals, trying to remember countless logins and remember where to click and submit in each portal.  Integrated outage submission capability should at least include the majors such as CAISO, ERCOT, MISO, PJM, ISONE, NYISO, SPP and Peak RC.  The time savings and reduction in potential errors is astonishing when you can manage it all in a single dashboard.  

5. Supporting Regulatory Reporting

In the energy industry, companies usually have several regulators they are obligated to provide reports and supporting evidence.

PUCs, ISOs, NERC and RCs all need data and reports.  Need to send a 3-year outage plan to PJM?  How about generating NERC GADS/TADS reports?  Does the PUC require reports on outages?  How can I be confident that all the reports sent to multiple regulators are based on the same information?

Identify what regulatory reporting is required for your organization.  Identify the Generation OMS solutions that can best provide your reporting requirements to support your regulatory needs.  Every business and market is different, so flexible generation outage analytics and generation outage reporting is a must have. 

6. The Single Source of the Truth

So many clients have explained to us the large variety of systems, spreadsheets, emails, policy documentation, compliance and other manual processes they’ve implemented to make things work.  The daily grind forces people to constantly be filling gaps and holes where possible and never having the chance to look at the entire landscape for improvements.  The same question gets asked so many times, “How can we make this work better?

Where is the single source of information when you have a fleet of generation assets, multiple ISO markets, regulatory agencies and compliance organizations?   Pulling all this information together becomes extremely important to utilities and merchant generators.   Having access to operational data, market data and compliance policy in a single source as the single truth scores high grades from our clients.

One of the most important pieces, but often most overlooked in the energy sector, is making sure these systems and solutions have focused on the user experience (UX or user interface).  When it comes to adoption of the system, the user experience while using the application is critical when multiple business organizations begin boarding users to a new application.  Outage coordinators who use the application all day long may be comfortable with a barrage of icons and clicks.  But the field technicians who are less familiar with the system and are more focused on the equipment need a simple and intuitive interface while in the field, especially when considering software to be used by power plants.  Spending time in the UX is important when multiple business stakeholders are involved.

Imagine this…

Everyone in the office from commercial, dispatch and operations, plant operations, compliance and executive management having access to and viewing the same data, the same version of the truth, in real time.    All the data, approvals, documentation, reports and logging related to outage management, outage scheduling, outage approvals, NERC GADS events and reporting, market data and compliance all in one spot with integration to push or pull other systems as needed.

The landscape is growing with virtual desks, regional and international employees and a variety of technology needed to drive these solutions across disparate groups.  Clients are requesting “Give me one place to go so I can find what I need!”

7. NERC GADS Management

This is a twofer:

This feature idea is ours.  We have always thought Outages and NERC GADS, Wind GADS and TADS reporting should be in the same application.  Generating Availability Data System (GADS) provides reliability information for total unit and major equipment groups.  Most companies have purchased dedicated applications just to manage this data.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Why pay for two separate applications when a single application can do both functions at the same time?   Why do most companies pay for separate licensing, different technology requirements, multiple logins and additional support needs?    Why not wrap all the functionality into a single application with reduced administrative burden, reduced support and licensing costs and a single platform everyone can use?

It’s not that much of a stretch when creating an outage to then either classify the NERC GADS data right then, or send it along in a workflow for NERC GADS classification by the plant operator. 

And what about NERC Wind GADS?   Does your company have the headcount and time to begin recording and classifying wind turbine level outages, derates and GADS reporting mandated to start in January 2018?

8. Access to the Data

Data availability is critical…

Outage data is consumed by a variety of other systems.  Reliability Coordinators and Transmission Operators such as the ISO, RTO and Peak RC may require the data.  Other regulators may need the data.  Work management benefits from integration with OMS software.  SCADA systems such as EMS and GMS often require insight into plant and asset capabilities. 

Clients continually request integration capabilities with an endless variety of internal and external systems.  These systems include SCADA systems, Energy Management Systems (EMS), Generation Management Systems (GMS), Work Management Systems, Historians, Trade Capture or Energy Trade Risk Management (ETRM) solutions.  Not to mention connecting and integrating with the transmission and reliability coordinators (ISO, RTO, RC) such as CAISO, ERCOT, MISO, PJM, ISONE, NYISO, SPP and Peak RC.

Today’s cloud capabilities are leading clients to outsource more and more of their software solutions from internal data centers to cloud based solutions.   This means companies and vendors need to start thinking about the complexities of data flowing in and out of their organization securely between various applications and reporting platforms.  Some of this data will be stored in traditional in-house data centers maintained by internal IT departments.  But more and more is moving to the virtual world of the cloud. 

What does this mean for you?

Outage Management System software today needs to have a robust integration architecture with out-of-the-box interfaces to key systems with the ability to build more as needed for each customer.    This means going beyond the traditional FTP integration of legacy solutions with new web service based Application Programming Interfaces (API).  

Making data available to be pushed and pulled where the business needs it most was added to this list.

9. 24-hour Anywhere Access

What does this mean?

Managing the grid is a 24x7 operation.  Outages can happen at any time.  Delays in notifications and approvals can cost time and money.  Being able to access the OMS via the web on various platforms (desktop, tablet, smartphone) can improve operations, enhance communications between business groups and save money.  Instant and reliable access to enormous amounts of information presented and organized very quickly has become the standard operating guideline for most companies today.

We believe today’s best options for 24-hour Anywhere Access are cloud based infrastructures with web enabled applications commonly referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).  Cloud providers such as Amazon (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Contour Data Solutions offer great data centers solutions that are NERC CIP, SOC and NIST compliant.  Combine SaaS solutions with highly secure cloud providers, the result is the data you need can be accessed securely from anywhere; home, work or on the road.

As the world is headed to the cloud, this requirement has become a must for the next generation of operations technology.   Technology that’s keeping up with the need to optimize and maximize plant performance and revenue.

Summary

This article provided a review of the most requested features for a Generation Outage Management System we’ve seen over the last year.   As we move forward, these may shift and change as technology evolves, markets change and new regulatory standards are rolled out to the marketplace.  But feel free to use these to help drive your own bullet list of features for your OMS software project or when looking for future upgrades and strategic planning.

If you have features or suggestions that didn’t make it into this article, we’d certainly like to hear from you.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at any time.  We’re here to help and are always engaged to chat about Outage Management, Asset Management and Technology.

About Versify

Versify Solutions, Inc. (versify.com) helps power producers optimize key functions and processes for power generation asset performance, event logging, outage management, trading and compliance to improve the operational and financial performance of generation and transmission assets.  Versify automates the outage management process across the portfolio and integrates with all ISO/RTOs and Reliability Coordinators.

Versify applications provide transparency to commercial teams, asset management teams and plant operations teams to reduce lost market opportunities and identify the optimal times for performing asset maintenance.  Versify offers a unique portfolio of analytical applications and services that provide key insights into generation performance, regulatory compliance, power-plant outage management and trading market opportunities.  For more information, please visit versify.com.

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This post was published on September 15, 2017 and updated on October 2, 2017.

Topics: GADS, Outage Management System, Workflow, generation, transmission, asset management

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