Strategic pillar 3: digitisation
Advancing ICT is rapidly unlocking new opportunities for managing our networks. By installing smart meters, sensors, remote control switches and a telecoms network, we can quickly detect and even prevent interruptions, make more targeted investments in the networks and offer customers data and services to make energy choices easier for them (including self-service).
We set ambitious digitisation targets for the year under review. One target was to complete 95% of our digitisation programmes. We ultimately completed 52% (2017: 58%). We did not manage to accomplish everything we had planned, particularly as regards the roll-out of the Smart Cable Guard and intelligent medium-voltage stations. This is due entirely to an inability to carry out all the work involved. In our operations, dealing with failures and disasters and connecting customers are given greater priority than the digitisation programme.
Data-driven network management
The use of IT makes it possible to manage fluctuations in energy supply and demand, and respond to evolving market relationships, in a reliable, efficient and safe manner. Smart networks and data technology help us to make targeted and effective investments in networks as well as to prevent outages and repair faults faster. Customers expect a network that enables them to feed in energy without any problem. They also expect us to make the network more reliable and transparent by means of innovative technology. We have carried out work at various locations to make our energy networks smarter. These initiatives include the integration of smart technology into medium-voltage stations, the roll-out of a switching system for public lighting, the large-scale roll-out of smart meters and the implementation of ICT applications and sensors for managing the flexible flow of energy.
Smart Cable Guards
Smart Cable Guard (SCG) is a system that detects and localises weaknesses in the underground network, ideally before these lead to interruptions. It enables any faults to be localised (with an accuracy of several metres) in a section of several kilometres in a single attempt. This reduces the amount of time and money needed for repairs to the electricity supply. Alliander purchased new SCGs in the year under review. In mid-December 2018, we had 530 SCGs in our network, and we expect to reach our target of 800 SCGs by mid-2019. In addition, the system underwent a technical update. Thanks to these changes, if a defective cable is detected, the system can now clearly indicate the precise location of the fault immediately. This means that outages can be resolved faster and other parts of the network can be activated immediately, enabling power to be restored to customers quickly.
Intelligent medium-voltage stations
During the year under review, we made efforts to improve the reliability of medium-voltage stations and gain a better understanding of the loads on them. For example, the time and duration of heavy loads are now made clear. Intelligent medium-voltage stations can help to resolve outages more quickly and keep customers better informed. We have recently made significant improvements, which included the addition of data obtained from smart meters.
Offering smart meters
One crucial link in the creation of a more intelligent infrastructure is the smart meter. Customers are increasingly making their own energy decisions. Smart meters help customers to save energy, to use energy when costs are low or to feed energy back into the grid when the price of electricity is high. We can also use the information provided by smart meters to deal with outages more quickly. We intend to offer smart meters to all our customers by 2020. We are doing this in close cooperation with our partners, such as contractors. In 2018, smart meters were offered to 643,519 addresses. At the end of 2018, 110% of the work scheduled for 2018 had been carried out. The progress made each month is shown on Alliander.com.
Privacy and data protection
The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. This new privacy legislation applies to all organisations that process personal data. Organisations need to be able to demonstrate that they handle such data with due care. Alliander is no exception. We made in-depth preparations to comply with the new legal requirements, which we implemented during the year under review. To illustrate, we have set up a record of processing activities containing information on all our personal data processing operations. We also carry out data protection impact assessments (DPIA); whenever we process large amounts of personal data or sensitive personal data, we first assess the privacy risks that could have consequences for the data subjects. Customers can go to liander.nl to exercise their associated rights, such as the right of access, right to erasure and right to restriction of processing.
We need to anticipate cyberattacks and respond promptly to any changes. Our employees play a key role in keeping our IT systems safe. We also analyse cyber-risks. This involves determining what any developments mean for Alliander, how we may be affected by a cyberattack, and which action we need to take. We have modern defences, which means that, besides setting up firewalls to avoid being hacked, we also detect hacking activity and take action. In 2018, the Dutch House of Representatives and Senate adopted the new Dutch Network and Information Systems (Security) Act. This act breathes new life into the existing duty of care and obligation to disclose cybersecurity incidents at providers of essential services, such as drinking water companies, network operators, utility companies and banks. Radiocommunications Agency Netherlands will carry out general, theme-based and (where necessary) incident-driven checks every year to determine whether companies comply with their duty of care and disclosure obligation. Alliander’s existing approach, based on governance, protection and resilience, complies with that duty and obligation.