Key performance indicators in the utility sector are driven by investor expectations of how much has to be spent on the network to yield the desired level of system performance. There are also regulatory and public relations issues in terms of pressure to avoid outages and demonstrate that the network has been designed and built to the required standard. Data taken from documents that track outages in certain areas of the globe show that these have trended upward and in fact reached a seven-year high in 2014. One of the factors behind this is believed to be interconnection of networks, which has increased short circuit currents. There is also increased switching to deal with increasing unexpected network conditions and events. All this is places greater stress on equipment and indeed is one of the reasons behind renewed interest in DC as well as fault current limiters. Networks are also more loaded meaning that all components, from cables to transformers, experience higher nominal loading and are running ‘hotter’. At the same time, faulty equipment has become one of the main contributors to outages. For example, poorly performing equipment accounted for 28 per cent of all outages in the U.S. and 30 per cent of the total in Canada in recent years.
The highest reliability in terms of verifying expected performance of critical network assets such as power transformers, breakers and other key apparatus is through full-scale testing, as per international standards. Laboratory-based testing remains the most secure process for the power industry to mitigate risk of equipment failure, especially since it is utilities themselves that bear the consequences of failure.
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