Power System Operator Staff From Vietnam, Colombia, and Ukraine Visit NREL

The Global Power System Transformation Consortium Hosted International Partners for a Study Tour Across Colorado and Arizona

April 13, 2023 | By Isabel McCan | Contact media relations

On a cloudy afternoon in March 2023, six visitors landed in Denver, Colorado, from Kiev, Ukraine; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Medellín, Colombia. Their arrival kicked off a 10-day, two-part U.S. study tour planned and hosted by the Global Power System Transformation (G-PST) Consortium.

The visitors were pairs of engineering staff from three system operators partnered with G-PST: the National Load Dispatch Centre (NLDC) in Vietnam, Compañía Expertos en Mercados (XM) in Colombia, and UkrEnergo in Ukraine.

The study tour began with three days on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL's) campus. The visiting partners participated in discussions with NREL staff to advance ongoing work on priority system operations topics. They also visited NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility, the National Wind Technology Center, and the control room at Xcel Energy to learn how Xcel manages power systems with high contributions of renewable energy.

On their final day at the laboratory, the group delivered a presentation to NREL employees where they shared their respective experiences managing reliable power systems and renewable energy growth.

Following the visit to Colorado, the group traveled as part of NREL's G-PST team to the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG) Spring Technical Workshop in Tucson, Arizona, for a week of seminars and networking. They hosted a session at the workshop where they shared a more in-depth version of their presentations with attendees.

The tour was made possible with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Department of State, and the United States Agency for International Development.

NREL's Role Enabling Global Power System Decarbonization

As the organization leading G-PST's system operator support, NREL is responsible for providing training, technical consulting, and implementation assistance to system operators in partner countries with the goal of readying their teams, tools, and systems to integrate high levels of variable renewable energy (VRE).

The idea for the study tour came about when NLDC expressed interest in sending their staff to visit the NREL laboratory. NREL's team then began gauging interest with other system-operator partners about a coordinated campus visit. Once the dates were determined, a competitive application process was launched to identify which staff members would be selected to join the trip.

"While bringing these partners to campus created an opportunity for their own professional development, it also meant our team could talk one-on-one with them and better understand where we should focus our own efforts," said Amy Rose, senior researcher with NREL's Grid Planning and Analysis Center and the lead for G-PST's technical support.

G-PST's approach to engaging with individual countries and system operators is always demand driven and designed to address their specific priorities.

In Vietnam, G-PST and NLDC are jointly developing a customized, open-source tool for inertia monitoring. This tool will allow NLDC to continue adding VRE sources to its electricity system without sacrificing reliability because they will have better visibility into important system-balancing parameters.

In Colombia, experts across G-PST's network are consulting on several different technical topics through regular working sessions with the XM team, as well as supporting XM's goal to increase women's representation in their staff and leadership. G-PST's Women in Power System Transformation (PST) initiative sponsored XM staff to attend a comprehensive training in Vienna, Austria, that enables participants to drive improvements in gender equity at their organization.

This study tour represented the first official engagement between G-PST and UkrEnergo in Ukraine. It is the start of a series of exchanges related to VRE integration, renewable energy and energy storage siting, and power system flexibility and capacity adequacy. The organizations hope to partner on these and other projects over the coming years to strengthen Ukraine's power system resilience.

Unique Systems, Common Challenges

While G-PST's engagement with each country varies according to its unique needs, many of the challenges system operators face while transitioning to higher shares of renewable energy are universal.

"We may have different energy mixes and be at different stages of transition, but we still do things similarly," said Duy Linh Bui, one of the visiting partners from Vietnam's NLDC. "No matter if you're an operator in Vietnam or Colombia, we are all focused on the common purpose of a reliable power system."

They also found validation in hearing from each other about how they handle their own day-to-day operations and questions.

"We all have a big responsibility on our shoulders managing the electricity system. You want to know the way you do it is the proper way," said Jorge Mola Jiménez, from Colombia's XM. "This interaction and talking with our peers from other countries helps us feel better about what we are doing."

Leaving With New Ideas and Lasting Impressions

Absorbing all the tours, discussions, and tools left the visiting partners in awe and excited about new areas of possible collaboration to explore with G-PST and NREL. Several of them expressed surprise on hearing the extent of NREL's expertise in areas such as market and policy analysis and other topics that are not purely technological.

"We wanted this tour to provide them with a greater awareness of what NREL can do," Rose said.

Learning about NREL's grid simulation tools, such as the Grid Impedance Scan Tool and the Hierarchical Engine for Large-scale Infrastructure Co-Simulation (HELICS), seemed to be a high point for the group.

"So many of the tool presentations had me saying, 'Wow,'" said Kateryna Deikun-Stepanchuk, from Ukraine's UkrEnergo. "We are impressed with the NREL staff's experience and its facilities. There has been so much to see and learn."

While the tour is concluded, its success marks the beginning of new conversations about how G-PST and NREL can support Vietnam, Colombia, and Ukraine moving forward and how the visiting partners can share their own expertise with others in the G-PST network around the world.

Each staff pair is developing action plans based on their experience that will engage their organization's leadership and drive strategic action, share lessons with their colleagues back home, and guide future partnership opportunities.

"We came here as explorers," Mola Jiménez said. "To learn, to meet people, to see new technologies. Now, we know what questions to ask, we know who to ask, and we have seen what can be possible for our own power systems."