Cigre Australia

global know-how


According to the World Bank, approximately 1.1 billion people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, live without electricity today.  Working Group B3.43, convened by Perry Tonking from Australia, was formed to support efforts to electrify regions where significant challenges exist in developing infrastructure.  The objective was to identify opportunities and provide guidance to lower the cost and risk, while improving the efficiency of deployment of substation assets in developing and remote regions.  It has now published Technical Brochure 740, titled “Contemporary design of low cost substations in developing countries.  Other Australian members of the working group were T Kreig, R Adams, R Hughes, N Arora and A Gabriel.  While the focus was on developing countries, all of the recommendations in the Technical Brochure are relevant for developed countries.  A number of cases in South Africa and Brazil may be quite relevant in Australia and New Zealand where composite technologies and modular type developments could strip out significant cost.

Figure 1 below shows the regions in each country without access to electricity.  The working group engaged with individuals and organisations with the expertise in deploying electricity infrastructure in these developing regions.

 world map

Figure 1 – Millions in each country without access to electricity

Initially, the working group undertook a survey of global practices to assess currently available technologies and challenges relevant to the objective.  Following this, a workshop was conducted in Johannesburg (ZA) to solicit input directly from African utilities facing the challenge of mass electrification.

The sole purpose of TB740 is to supply practical guidance on substation design and how it integrates into the broader context of substation installation projects, to support developing countries in securing access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy.  The objectives are to ease the design process and apply what adds efficiency, real-value, and cost-savings to the design. This is achieved through consideration of the siting, construction, operation, maintenance and retirement of these substations.  In addition, currently available technologies, equipment and practices, as well as the limited resources locally available in these developing areas, are important factors.  Design performance of a substation is dependent on service security, availability and operational flexibility.  The relative costs of performance levels in these categories is important, particularly in relation to the tensions between affordability and improved productivity.  Fundamentally, the most significant cost driver was found to be the effectiveness of planning and then managing the delivery of the infrastructure.  The brochure has been divided into three main sections as follows:

  • Substation Design Philosophy.

  • Engineering and technical implementation aspects of substation development.

  • Commercial, Project Management and Training Considerations.

Work was completed in just under 3 years and reached the following conclusions:

  1. Asset Management: Manage costs and risks associated with inherently long-life assets using proven techniques to get optimal performance from the allotted budget (i.e. “the most bang for the buck”) over the entire life cycle.

  2. Engineering: Follow efficient design processes using standard and modular designs that can reduce engineering and construction time, labour, costs and risks. They are key to repeatable success and continuous improvement. Incorporating safety in design will prevent accidents due to hazards impacting personnel, the public and equipment, which can have costly consequences.

  3. Equipment: Invest considerable energy into correct material and equipment selection to reduce cost and maximise performance. Standardisation will yield cost savings through better specifications, simpler procurement via framework contracts, discounts for buying in volume, and having construction and maintenance crews familiar with standard equipment.

  4. Constructability: Employ the benefits of standardisation of designs and equipment to allow for the most labor-efficient and thus cost-effective installation of the equipment.  This also promotes familiarity with the infrastructure that will yield savings during installation, operation and maintenance.

  5. Project Management: Use best practice project management principles to manage time, resources, scope, and quality.  This will ultimately ensure overall expenditures are minimised.

  6. Training & Development: The most significant issue from all respondents was the need to acquire and retain substation technical skills. Investment in training results in competent professionals with the knowledge and ability in the art and science of substation design.  They will know how to question and challenge themselves continually to do their best to be cost-effective and efficient, creating innovative designs to deliver much-needed infrastructure for electrification.

CIGRE Australia contributed significantly to this initiative through the participation of several individual members, utility members and the NGN members for data management. 

 sth af photo

 Figure 2 – WGB3.43 inspecting the construction of an AIS Substation in South Africa

The Technical Brochure (TB) 740 can be viewed on e-CIGRE and is free to members. The cost to non-members is €530.