Not many years ago, EBS, the state-owned electric utility in Suriname, used to operate the power system in a manual way. If more energy from the grid was needed, the system operator called the power plant to increase the generation. In the case of a failure in a transmission line, an emergency plan was activated to adjust the system and recover the grid stability.
With the goal of improving the operative efficiency, in 1998 EBS started to implement a system for Supervision, Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) in some of the substations. The SCADA system enables EBS to monitor and remotely control substations, which allows for problems to be identified and solved in a more proactive and immediate way, thus improving the reliability and security of the power service.
The digital transformation of the electric utility
This demonstrated the need for a complete digital transformation to operate the whole power system. That’s when the IDB became an important ally to support this process.
In 2013, EBS started to gradually integrate all the power plants and substations from the EPAR system (the main power system in Suriname) into a unique centralized SCADA. For this it was necessary to redesign the SCADA architecture, together with the implementation of a centralized Energy Management System. Also, a new control center was built to monitor and operate the whole power system. Likewise, the power plants and substations from EBS were equipped with a local SCADA and fiber optic connections to the control center.
The construction of the control center, together with the commissioning of the SCADA have been a tedious process, but the results have been highly positive. EBS is currently operating the power system from the new control center. Almost all the power plants and substations are integrated to the new centralized SCADA. The IDB has been proud to assist EBS through technical and financial support channeled through a loan to the Government of Suriname.
The digital transformation for the energy transition
In addition to improving the efficiency and quality of the service, the SCADA is fundamental to the future development of renewable energy in Suriname, in particular solar and wind energy. Both technologies, unlike the thermal and hydroelectric power plants, are not dispatchable, as their generation depends on the solar radiation or wind, resources that vary during the year, day and even during very small fractions of time.
This variability, together with the difficulties predicting the resource, represent a big challenge for the system operator, who should be able to guarantee that the energy demand is supplied in each moment. Moreover, these plants used to be smaller and more distributed in the territory than the convectional power plants, which increases even more, the complexity for the operator.
The centralized SCADA will monitor and control in real time all the distributed generation plants and adjust the power system to meet the demand, in order to guarantee that the development of solar and wind energy does not negatively effect the quality of the service.
New technologies to consolidate the transition
It should be noted that the technological modernization of EBS to improve its operational and planning capabilities does not finish with the implementation of the SCADA. Also, with support from the IDB, EBS is developing an integrated platform based on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which includes the implementation of a Geographic Integration System (GIS), an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) and an Outage Management System (OMS).
Additionally, EBS is planning to implement a Distribution Management System (DMS) and a massive deployment of smart meters across the country.
The GIS is the base of integration of all these technological platforms, including the SCADA system, since it allows EBS to collect, visualize, manipulate, analyze and distribute the information in a centralized and efficient way. The implementation of the GIS is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
Through the implementation of all these technologies, EBS will consolidate its transition to a digital and intelligent utility, operating its power system in a more sustainable and efficiently way, improving the security and quality of the service, reducing the cost of the electricity and facilitating the future integration of renewable energy.