Staying connected

Connectivity is the key-word in today's society: connectivity to energy, to information and to people.

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Rene Smeets René Smeets
Service Area Leader

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KEMA Laboratories
Staying Connected
At present, society is heavily depending on the supply of electric power. Countries all over the world strive to connect their inhabitants to electric energy in order to provide them with a certain quality of life. For those people and businesses, that are already connected, the uninterrupted supply, thus the quality and availability of the electric energy is vital to maintain their quality of life and keep the economy going.
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  • Keywords: KEMA Laboratories, Corporate energy users, Governments, Manufacturers, Utilities

Connection to information, more and more a byword to the internet, is becoming almost an addiction to many, anytime anywhere and sometimes even anyhow.
Also on business level, information - and energy connectivity are intimately linked, and will become more and more so in the future. The latest information acquisition and exchange technologies will be called upon to control the systems (and the users!) of electrical energy distribution, in an attempt to make the operation of these grids "smart".

Where are the people? The wish for interconnectivity between people is evident allover from the mobile telecom explosion, completely unforeseen in the past. But also on a technological level, the exploitation of inter-human specialist networks is on an unprecedented level.

This also has its impact on testing. Test laboratories can only operate in a satisfactory way when they maintain a well-balanced position between their direct customers, mostly the manufacturers, and the customers of the manufacturers, the end-users in power companies or industry. Only by keeping a certain distance to both these parties, its independence, the main asset of KEMA Laboratories, can be guaranteed. At the same time, communication to both parties needs to optimize the potential of testing for quality assurance.
Networking and interconnectivity plays a crucial part in this process. Not only the direct business-to-business relationship that is normal to every industry, but also the involvement in relevant international committees like IEC, CIGRE, IEEE et cetera.

In standardization, such as practiced by IEC (the International Electrotechnical Commission) and IEEE, test-laboratories must be present on a prominent level. They bring in their expertise and experience in order to look after the "testability" of certain procedures. This is not only in the physical meaning of the word (having facilities), but also in the sense of "test-worthiness": tests need to be technically relevant.
KEMA Laboratories have demonstrated that bringing intelligence into testing and looking in a detailed way to test-results, the focus in testing can be shifted to the really relevant issues.
This leads sometimes to a complicated discussion, since different technical solutions have to be submitted to the same tests, whereas one solution may have weak points different from the other. More specifically, high-voltage switchgear testing always meant testing of SF6 filled devices. Now, that vacuum switchgear is beginning to emerge on the higher voltage level, and maybe even more so for SF6 alternative gases, it might be questioned whether test-programs, specifically defined for challenging the weakness of SF6 devices, are always relevant for an alternative technology. Test-laboratory specialists should bring in their expertise here and take their responsibility.

Another reason why independent specialists should be involved in standardization is the function they have by standing in between manufacturers and users of equipment. Given the fact that standardization committees are more and more dominated by manufactures, and that specific technical expertise at power companies is being outsourced, independent experts should guarantee the adequacy, robustness and feasibility of standards.
In the future, the technical requirements to power networks will increase due to the more economic exploitation of their possibilities. This should be reflected in standards and test-laboratories should invest in excellent facilities and skilled personnel.

CIGRE (the international council on large electric systems) is internationally the most important technical community of specialists in power engineering. Networking through its body is highly effective, which is reflected in the increasing number of specialists that want to tap its potential and the fast growth of participants of its biennial conference in Paris. In principle organized to support the standardization process, CIGRE's function is shifting towards a virtual, neural network like technical expertise centre for the operation of power systems and their components.
Staying connected to the (informal) technical expertise centers and committees thus is a must. Testing people that want to get acquainted with the latest equipment that they receive in their laboratories, should be fully entrenched in the discussions that gave birth to their existence.

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