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GE Helps Power Plants Achieve Digital Transformation

In its latest win in the power generation industry, GE will provide Enel with predictive diagnostics software for 14 thermal plants in Europe and Latin America.

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Power generation across the globe is tackling its challenges head-on, generating an enormous amount of data and taking a deeper look into that data to gain tremendous insight. “They disrupt themselves to survive and use enabling technologies to help them get there,” says Craig Jones, chief commercial officer for power digital at GE, which has been announcing a string of major wins in the industry.

The latest announcement is for predictive diagnostics software at 14 thermal power plants in Europe and Latin America for Enel. GE and Enel will deploy and optimize GE’s Asset Performance Management (APM) software—which operates on Predix, GE’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform—to monitor, predict and enhance reliability at 13 gas-fired power plants and one coal-fired plant. All 14 of the power plants use turbines and generators from GE or Alstom, whose power and grid businesses GE purchased in late 2015.

At its Minds + Machines conference last fall, GE announced a major multi-year agreement with Exelon’s six electric utilities as well as a wide-ranging agreement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) in its goal to become the world’s first fully digital utility. In a major step along that path, the NYPA recently celebrated the opening of its Integrated Smart Operations Center, a cutting-edge asset monitoring and diagnostics center using GE’s predictive analytics software.

Digital transformation could potentially generate more than $1.3 billion over the next decade for the worldwide power and utility industry, according to Russell Stokes, CEO of GE Power.

In Europe, where customers are “extremely complex and competitive,” Jones says, utilities have been very sophisticated when it comes to how they address digital transformation. “The operating profile of a plant in Europe is very different than the North American market or other markets in other regions,” he says. “These plants aren’t running at full load; they’re running at very reduced powers. So the focus on the KPI changes a bit. Investment in digital technologies to get the most operational efficiency becomes much more challenging.”

Enel, Europe’s largest power utility in terms of market capitalization, has emerged as a leader in digitalization. “I think Enel represents one of the most advanced digital transformation stories that I’ve seen across the globe,” Jones says, describing a C-level meeting in which GE had the opportunity to share its experience in digital projects. “Enel started sharing with us what they’re doing in digital. And we thought wow, they’ve really thought about this very strategically and are executing very well across their digital transformation play.”

Enel operates in more than 30 countries, with close to 90 GW of capacity and 64 million customers worldwide. “Managing an operation like that, the need to improve operational performance becomes very large,” Jones says.

While North American customers tend to come along a several-year roadmap journey, the European market is more focused on proving out the technology with smaller pilot projects, Jones says. In typical fashion, Enel took on a small pilot with GE prior to signing on for this bigger deal. “We had phenomenal success in the pilot,” he says, noting workshops held for the customer in GE’s San Ramon, Calif., facilities to drive the initiative across a broader set of the organization. “This led to some learnings to implementing the first successful cloud-to-cloud implementation.”

Implementation of the APM software is expected to begin this month and to be completed around the end of the year. As GE and Enel work to drive and improve operational performance around the 14 sites, the goal is to expand the effort across other layers of GE’s portfolio, Jones says, including its Operations Optimization software. “There’s tremendous opportunity to land and expand and provide incremental value capture as this relationship develops,” he adds.


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