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Indonesia getting smart with Alstom

Alstom, a global leader in energy and transport infrastructure have recently introduced its Agile digital substation technology as part of the “smart grid” technology products, to enhance energy transmission and distribution networks through digital control and monitoring.

Grégoire Poux-Guillaume, executive vice president of Alstom, said his firm, which has operated in Indonesia since 1996, would use the technology to assist Indonesia’s state electricity company PT PLN to improve its service, and assist in developing a smart grid in Indonesia.

Poux-Guillaume stated “We met with PLN recently and discussed a pilot installation of the digital substation. Things will happen, and I am sure we are going to do demonstration with them soon,” said Poux-Guillaume on the sidelines of a recent the CIGRE event, where the technology was launched.

The Agile digital substation provides instant communication with numerous electrical power substations to promote communication, protection and primary equipment management. Alstom believe that this technology will help reduce carbon emissions, increase efficiency and reduce overall consumption.

Poux-Guillaume revealed “If you look at countries that have widely adopted the deployment of digital substations, a great example is China. Indonesia is not a fast mover in this area, but this technology is going be a big part of the solution going forward for Indonesia. We discussed it with PLN in July and I have high hopes that we’ll have something going pretty soon,” he said.

In his speech, Poux-Guillaume pointed out key benefits of the digital substations, including enhanced safety and reliability and improved safety for substation operators, which is an important factor to consider. By operating remotely, he said, PLN could use real time data to take action faster and mange its grid more effectively.

“It makes easier to manage the grid because you have complete information from all the substations. You know what’s happening and you can take action before it’s too late. So, the more a country is spread out, the more it has difficulties in accessing substations, and the longer the distances, the better the business case is for installing digital substations.”
Indonesia is a great example of this with a sprawling layout and also still rely heavily conventional technology and copper wiring.

“Currently your install base is conventional, and you wouldn’t really get much of a benefit from the first few digital substations. It is when you start installing quite a few of them that you really get the most value,” Poux-Guillaume continued.

Poux-Guillaume said that Alstom are really focused on further expanding in Indonesia rather than on developing efforts elsewhere, adding that the company hoped to implement a mass of new technological upgrades across  the country.

Yves Doin, the firms’ research and development director for gas-insulated substation products, pointed out that the main issue in switching to a new technology was training people. “If I introduce this new technology, I need all the people trained for this. Sometimes it’s not easy to move all these guys to this kind of new technology,” Doin said.

However, Alstom is now facing increased competition in the field of power generation with the entry of Chinese companies, putting pressure on the firm to maintain its place in the market.

Alstom’s activities in Indonesia have come under scrutiny recently as it has been linked in the media to a bribery case involving senior Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Izedrik Emir Moeis and the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Tarahan, Lampung, in 2004.

Poux-Guillaume commented on the allegations, saying “The issue is very unfortunate. The industry in general is still suffering the consequences of some of the business practices of the past. It is certainly not unacceptable way to do business,” he explained.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy at Alstom for anything related to unethical practices. We work the best we can do to deal with those cases and handle them as best as we can, to put them behind us and not creating new cases, which we are not, because we have very strict policies.”

Poux-Guillaume said that although the allegations had affected the firm’s business, both internally and among local authorities, he was confident in the firm’s business ethics and that the company would emerge stronger than before.

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