IIOT Power

10 Reasons to Attend a Conference Tailored to Digitalization in the Power Sector

Anticipation is mounting for the Connected Plant Conference (CPC), POWER and Chemical Engineering’s digitalization event, scheduled to take place next week, May 20–22, 2024, near Houston, Texas. If you are a professional in the power industry, here are 10 reasons you should attend the industry event that is uniquely focused deeply on the practical and business-oriented implementation of digitalization and the digital transformation for critical infrastructure industries.

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For one, the 8th CPC conference, which will be held from Monday through Wednesday next week at the Lake Resort Conference Center at Margaritaville, is crafted by industry professionals from the power and chemical process sectors. Its key mission is to provide an intimate environment to foster real-world solutions and partnerships in an effort to propel pragmatic application and shed insight into the burgeoning (but much-hyped) levers that digitalization may offer. 

But, perhaps the conference’s mettle is in its agenda, which is packed with a dynamic range of sessions meticulously structured to tackle the most pressing issues and the latest innovations in the power and chemical sectors.

Digitalization Now an Imperative—But Still Hindered By Challenges

For some crucial context from a power industry perspective, the pace of innovation has been much heralded as a crucial mechanism as the industry grapples with risks and challenges associated with three foundational outcomes: energy reliability, affordability, and sustainability. Driven by the need to address multiple pressures—including rising climate adversity, changing customer expectations, economic and supply chain pressure, and scarce and expensive talent—utilities and power companies are optimistic that intelligent operations may derisk and adjust standard business and operating models, and help them become more agile.

Today, digitalization has already morphed into a power sector imperative. Advancements in digital technologies are having a verifiable impact on the efficiency, reliability, and safety at power plants. New tools including digital twins, artificial intelligence (AI), the many devices that make up the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), cloud computing, augmented reality, and more, promise to bolster plant operations and potentially identify issues before they occur. They also serve to provide and analyze vast amounts of data and identify patterns and insights. 

Research and advisory firm Gartner in July 2023 depicted where power sector digital technologies currently sit in the “Hype Cycle”—a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. The firm notes technologies are maturing. Many are moving through the “trough of disillusionment” and making progress through the “slope of enlightenment” and toward the “plateau of productivity.” Courtesy: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Utility Industry IT, 2023
Research and advisory firm Gartner in July 2023 depicted where power sector digital technologies currently sit in the “Hype Cycle”—its proprietary graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities. The firm notes technologies are maturing. Many are moving through the “trough of disillusionment” and making progress through the “slope of enlightenment” and toward the “plateau of productivity.”  Courtesy: Gartner, Hype Cycle for Utility Industry IT, 2023

Still, there remains significant hesitancy to implement the new tools and approaches, owing to several barriers—mostly prominently, the lack of an effective digitalization strategy. Other challenges include the dearth of a skilled workforce, evolving technology maturation, the substantial capital required for technology adoption, resistance to change at various management levels, and the limitations of legacy systems. Additionally, poor data quality, heightened cybersecurity risks, and insufficient standards further complicate broader digital transformation within the power industry.

Past CPC conferences have sought to facilitate information sharing, including best practices, lessons learned, and predictions for the future, all through the lens of real-world case studies. The forthcoming CPC 2024 conference will do that with more rigor to explore the “how” and “why” of digitalization, catered to whichever stage of your digital journey you might be. 

This year’s conference is founded on three interdependent prongs: technology, process, and people. In essence, the agenda strives to address common concerns, ranging from sustainability goals, workforce and skills enhancement, asset management, data management, and the general scope of achievement, including business value and profitability.

Let’s delve deeper into specific trends and topics the CPC 2024 will cover.

1. Cutting-Edge Technology

As digital technologies advance, the power industry is frequently bombarded by the plethora of solutions and their potential applications. CPC will feature a series of quick-focused “Tech Talks,” introductions to the latest technologies. For power professionals, understanding these technologies is essential for staying competitive and making informed decisions about investments in technology upgrades or new implementations. These sessions provide a snapshot of what’s new and emerging in the industry.

Time & Date: 8:30 AM 9:00 AM, May 21, 2024.

2. Culture and Change Management

Time and time again, power experts have suggested that a cultural evolution predicated on long-term business goals will be crucial for the successful adoption of new technologies within the power sector. They note that careful implementation of change management can influence long-term operational success and employee engagement. CPC will kick off with deep insight from industry leaders: Rich Voorberg, president of Siemens Energy North America,  Rod Walker and Kristen Etheredge, senior consultants at Kearney. The keynotes will discuss the strategic importance of culture and change management, with a concerted focus on helping attendees understand how organizational culture affects technology adoption and its operational success.

Time & Date: 9:00 a.m. CST – 10:00 a.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

3. Cybersecurity—The Latest Approaches

The power sector is well-versed in developing cybersecurity approaches to bolster its increasingly connected paradigm. Yet, the escalating cyber threat landscape urgently demands power sector entities stay abreast of the latest developments. While cybersecurity will remain a concerted focus throughout the conference, a key CPC session will feature cybersecurity experts from Southern Co., Siemens Energy, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The session will delve into the latest multifaceted strategies for securing power infrastructure and include discussions to cover compliance with evolving regulations, best practices for risk mitigation, and the integration of cybersecurity measures into daily operations.

Time & Date: 11:00 a.m. CST – 12:00 p.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

A separate session will explore strategies for implementing robust cybersecurity measures while harnessing the power of technology to drive efficiency and enhance the bottom line. Expert discussions will focus on techniques for hardening cyber defenses and practical examples of optimizing cybersecurity compliance in technology adoption.

Time & Date: 8:30 a.m. CST – 10:00 a.m. CST, May 22, 2024.

4. Revolutionizing Facility Connectivity

The deployment of private LTE and 5G networks is revolutionizing facility connectivity and proving crucial for operational efficiency and the management of IoT devices in the power industry. But to shed more light on the nuances of their implementation, experts from Nokia and DXC Technology will present case studies. The crucial discussions will unveil the challenges and benefits associated with these technologies, with a focus on improving connectivity to drive digital transformation.

Time & Date: 1:00 p.m. CST – 1:30 p.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

Separately, a workshop will unravel the complexities of deploying wireless communication technologies for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) within the power sector, covering topics like secondary sensors, the strategic deployment of wireless technology, and optimizing the functionality of data-collecting sensors. The workshop will place a special focus on enhancing connectivity for innovative solutions.

Workshop Time & Date: 2:30 p.m. CST – 4:00 p.m. CST, May 22, 2024.

5. Leveraging Digital Twins for Operational Excellence

Despite some divergence on what digital twins comprise, their application in the power sector has been verified to enable the simulation, monitoring, and analysis of physical systems, and the technology is proving crucial for predictive maintenance, operational optimization for, and the reduction of downtime. Leaders from industry-leading companies will share insights on how digital twins can lead to significant improvements in asset management and operational efficiency.

Time & Date: 2:30 p.m. CST – 3:30 p.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

Another session will seek to delve deeper into real-world digital twin applications. Industry experts from Vistra Corp., Siemens Energy, and Covestro will present case studies that highlight the tangible benefits of digital twins in enhancing operational efficiency, showcasing their use in real-time monitoring and predictive maintenance.

Time & Date: 8:30 a.m. CST – 10:00 a.m. CST, May 22, 2024.

6. AI and Machine Learning: Enhancing Decision-Making and Efficiency

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already rapidly transforming all facets of the power sector—including generation, transmission and distribution, and even power retail. But as AI applications proliferate, new challenges are emerging, among them data management, data privacy, system integrity, and the integration of AI into established operational frameworks. A tailored session at CPC will hone in on the practical applications of AI and machine learning, featuring case studies from industry pioneers, including led by Arnold Martin from Air Liquide, Jonathan Alexander from ALBEMARLE, Joe Witkowski from The Energy Authority, Alan Karr from Siemens Energy, Inc., and Seth Arpan from Evonik Corp.

Time & Date: 2:30 p.m. CST – 3:30 p.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

7. Workforce Empowerment

The people behind the operations must always be an important consideration when technology adoption is at stake. A successful strategy will require creating an alignment across all levels of an organization, from management to frontline workers. A key session led by experts from Southern Co., Texas A&M University, Cumulus Digital Systems, Stephenson Technologies Corp., and Kearney will focus deeply on the essential practices of accurate data collection for informed decision-making and outline effective strategies to facilitate the smooth adoption of new technologies. Crucially, the session will highlight the importance of securing company-wide buy-in and understanding the evolving expectations of a new generation in the workforce. It will also explore methods to maintain institutional knowledge and adapt to technological changes, ensuring a workforce that is not only skilled but also resilient and prepared for future challenges.

Time & Date: 4:00 p.m. CST – 5:30 p.m. CST, May 21, 2024.

8. Digitalization’s Influence on Sustainability and Decarbonization

The power sector continues to place much emphasis on improving operational efficiencies—and in recent years, that drive has been supercharged by objectives to reduce its environmental impact. Experts from Southern Co., Air Liquide, and Caddis Systems in a tailored session will showcase how integrated digital solutions can contribute to sustainability goals.

Time & Date: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., May 21, 2024.

9. Advanced Data Analytics and Big Data Applications

At past CPC events, speakers have detailed pervasive challenges related to the massive input and output of data from devices, which tend to veer toward “data anarchy” if not adequately managed. Power sector business needs, specifically, require advanced analytics, centralized data from multiple sites, and the ability to share data securely and easily. A key session this year will delve into the critical role data management plays in transforming the power sector by providing deeper insights into power generation, transmission, and consumption patterns.

Time & Date: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., May 21, 2024.

10. Regulatory Compliance and Industry Standards

Along with rapid advances in technology, regulatory frameworks are evolving. Some sessions at CPC will touch on how digitalization aligns with current regulatory requirements and what changes are anticipated, helping companies stay compliant and competitive in the tightly regulated power industry.

One session, in particular, will be dedicated to the discussion of open standards. The session, led by David DeBari from ExxonMobil Corp. and Michael Clark from the OPC Foundation, will discuss how standards facilitate integration across different systems, enhance interoperability, and support collaborative innovations. The session will also address the challenges and solutions in adopting open-source software and establishing open standards, which are crucial for building software-defined systems and ensuring smooth digital transformations.

Time & Date: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., May 22, 2024.

Registration for the CPC Conference is still open. For more, see: https://www.connectedplantconference.com/

Written and researched by POWER staff. POWER magazine has hosted the Connected Plant Conference alongside its sister publication Chemical Engineering since 2017. 

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