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What changes is digitalization going to bring about?

On 25 June, as part of the convention program of the Russian International Energy Forum, Expoforum ran the Plenary Session Energy and Digital Technologies: Priorities of Regulatory Policy, Investment Sources and Projects.

At the beginning of the meeting, moderator Yuri Stankevich, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Energy Policy and Energy Efficiency of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, asked all speakers to give a brief review of the changes that they have witnessed in the energy sector in recent years.

According to Alexandra Panina, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Council of Power Producers, global changes have taken place: “A lot of what we couldn’t think about for 10-15 years ago have come to happen. But most importantly, energy is changing evolutionarily, not revolutionarily. We are accepting all changes bit by bit.” “A great deal has happened during 20 years. We are so lucky that we are the participants in this process," – admitted Pavel Shatsky, First Deputy CEO, Gazprom Energoholding Ltd.   However, not all changes are the ones for the better. Tagir Nigmatulin, President of REP Holding JSC, says that over the recent years, energy has been deprived of home-made equipment: “Now the share of equipment made in Russia has dropped to 30-35%. The import substitution program is currently underway, and we are expecting a change. Money must stay in the country", – believes Mr. Nigmatulin.

The First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Energy Committee of the Russian Federation, Sergey Esyakov suggested there should be a more dynamic attitude. “Now it’s impossible to be in a static position. The situation in the global energy sector is such that in order to stay in place you need to move. And in order to go ahead you need to run," – pointed out Mr. Esyakov.

According to Elena Medvedeva, Deputy Director of the Department for Operational Control and Management in the Electric Power Industry of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, the main problem in the industry is the depreciation of existing capacities. During the period of reform in the company, a bias was made towards the development of economic relations within the industry, and the technologies were left to the mercy of the subjects themselves and foreign suppliers. Now the situation should change due to the digitalization of energy." “It makes it possible to create production clusters that will be formed on the basis of digital platforms for the best solution for all the players. This is ensured by the introduction of technology in the value chain. Now the key technology is a “digital twin””, – pointed out Mrs. Medvedeva. According to the speaker, the technology works as follows: a virtual copy of an actual product is created, in which all data on materials and design features are registered. The technology makes it possible to deploy the main share of changes and costs at the engineering stage. This allows you to reduce costs, as well as create high-tech products of the new generation in the shortest possible time. “Production sites should be ready to quickly and easily adapt to any orders, as well as implement the equipment for operations with energy companies. This becomes possible when we are using a combination of technologies. In the future, it is planned that at a certain stage of the product life cycle the energy companies will participate in a virtual factory, meaning that the process chains will be created on request,” – emphasized Elena Medvedeva.

Pavel Shatsky, First Deputy CEO, Gazprom Energoholding, said that since 2015, many things have changed. "Then, in the midst of crisis, it was not worth waiting that the industry will get better by itself. And much of what is now being implemented at that time was viewed as a very distant prospect. Now we are seeing the completion of the program of Capacity Delivery Agreements; it has been completed this year. Now we see the second program of Capacity Delivery Agreements starting with a modernization program empowered by an investment of 1.5 trillion rubles", – says Mr. Shatsky.

"Every decade has its own slogan", – says Tagir Nigmatulin, President of REP Holding JSC. “In the fifties there was cybernetics, in the 80s – CNC machines, robotics. Now digitalization – we collect a large amount of data that we can process and make solutions based on them. But solutions are not only to be adopted, they also have to be implemented. We are a huge country, and we cannot create a large number of rules and regulations. It is necessary to introduce uniform requirements from customers, which will allow equipment manufacturers to work more cost effectively. There are no engineering regulations and rules right now. No standards. I have to adapt to each customer, and this takes a lot of effort, which affects the cost of production. We need a clear and understandable technical policy, uniform requirements, uniform agreements. They should be drawn up by the Ministry", – believes the speaker.

Besides that, the global problem is the loss of workers engaged in manufacturing and production.“The main problem of the production is that there are no workers, no engineers. We have to robotize. And this increases the cost of production. Production and science side by side now remain only in China", – said Tagir Nigmatulin.

According to Fedor Opadchiy, Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of SO UES JSC, one problem of digitalization for now is that the cost of IT solutions is critically rapidly declining. “Digitalization reduces the time and cost to the extent that we have to face the challenge of real-time regulation of the system. The currently available tools of the electric power and other energy markets fully ensure the best capacity utilization while meeting the demand for electricity in the context of any one hour. At the same time, there are not enough tools to optimize the daily irregularity of the consumption schedule in UES – Unified Energy System. We have to issue national standards. I hope they will be soon adopted," - says the expert.

Alexandra Panina, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Council of Energy Producers believes that digitalization increases competition, it allows you to remove many barriers. “At the same time, there’s a lot of hype about digitalization. Besides, everyone has his/her own understanding of the term. Some understands it as improved management, others have other concepts. Moreover, the term Uberization of the fuel and energy complex has sprung up lately. Although it was uberized even before Uber emerged,” – says Mrs. Panina.

“Digitalization is a necessary resource for the development of the industry. It allows you to release investments that can be used for other purposes", – believes Elena Medvedeva, Deputy Director of the Department for Operational Control and Management in the Electric Power Industry of the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation. As an example of successful digitalization, she cited two platforms operating in the Leningrad and Moscow regions that automate the acquisition of conditions for connection.

But the risk of mindless digitalization is great. “We currently do not have our own element base for digitalization. This is a big risk of bugs. And a high risk of cyber danger. It is necessary to replace the entire base. The problem is the lack of specialists," – says Tagir Nigmatulin.

The Plenary Session rounded up with a feel-good event – awarding of the laureates of the “International Competition of R&D, Scientific, Technical and Innovative Developments Aimed at the Development of the Fuel and Energy and Mining Industry”, which was conducted by the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation.

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