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The digital revolution in Hydropower

Well, let’s say it clearly, talking about Blockchain, digital transformation or “Virtual Power Plant” is a must at the coffee maker of any strategy and marketing department, in R & D meetings and even in trade union committees. “You know what Mike, I tell you, the robots will make us disappear”.

And it is true that if one believes the many reports on Megatrends, the digital revolution in the energy sector… happens just now! Beyond the simple buzzword and other marketing injunctions, it is true that digital will profoundly modify the sector, not only on the ppt slides of the marketing director but also in  real life !

The main technological developments in digital can be summarized by the following advances:

  • Increased data speed: data analysis can now take place in real-time on highly significant volumes,
  • Interconnection: sensors and data users interact continuously in a customized and configurable way,
  • Big data analytics: analytical and statistical approaches explode in order to analyze and unravel physical phenomena, to unearth invisible correlations and to anticipate unforeseeable or counterintuitive evolutions,
  • Mobility: smartphones, laptop computers, cloud computing, and so on, provide access to information with unmatched flexibility.
  • Data security: the arrival of Blockchain technology will allow new business models to emerge as the security of the systems will become inherent in the new structures of data circulation.

A better anticipation of operations and maintenance will be made possible by the arrival of new tools to support maintenance: real-time monitoring, aging simulation, digital twin, mobility tools etc. Scheduled outages will be shorter and better anticipated and unplanned outages will be statistically more rare. The analyzes will also reinforce the Design for Maintenance effort, reducing all the more the elements mentioned above. Services will see their business case reinforced and the tools that support them develop: demand response valuation, network support associated services etc. As a result, for the operator, this means:

  • Cost reduction
  • Improved team productivity
  • Increased availability
  • Increased security

In the hydro sector, flexibility is now needed to be able to play an increasing role to integrate intermittent renewables efficiently. Access to data on all critical elements (turbines and generators in particular) will play a critical role in this. While it is clear that instrumentation and control did not wait 2017 to come into existence – it has always existed – we will nevertheless certainly see a clear acceleration in the sector. Companies like General Electric, for example, communicate a lot about their internal use of digital tools as well as the digital products and services they offer to their customers. The convergence of hardware, software and analysis on a large scale and in real time opens the door to a new era, especially for operations and maintenance in the sector.

Digital twins, google glass for maintenance teams, simulations of access to the network, valuation of services related to flexibility, particularly important for PSPs, will perhaps give a new lease of life to this industry…which is not known to be the most innovative.


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