Estonia’s NetFix predicts electric grid faults before they happen

Since 2020, NetFix, a monitoring and fault prediction tool, has helped Elektrilevi, Estonia’s largest electricity network operator, prevent close to 300 faults in the country’s electrical grid from malfunctioning, saving time and money.

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NetFix is a power health monitoring and fault prediction tool that uses smart electricity meters to collect data. It helps prioritise grid work and optimise the network.

With NetFix, up to 65% of faults in low voltage are predictable, and 90% can be resolved without clients ever realising there was a problem. And solving a problem before it happens is more consumer-friendly and more cost-effective than fixing issues after the fact.

NetFix relies on a smart power grid

Estonia is far ahead of many countries when it comes to digitisation. From 2011 to 2016, Estonia’s largest network services provider, Elektrilevi, installed smart electricity meters for more than 650,000 customers. It is responsible for the reliability of the 60,000 kilometres of low and medium voltage lines, of which 30% are overhead lines that are exposed to the elements. Every year, approximately 7,700 faults are detected, which accounts for 64% of the total number of faults in low voltage.

“While the grid was being digitalised, we were looking for more ways to benefit from the data we would be provided,” Chris Keres, the team and project manager at NetFix, said.

NetFix was developed to help identify low-voltage network defects that affect network quality and cause malfunctions and interruptions. It uses Elektrilevi’s smart electricity meters to identify issues and get to the heart of their root causes.

Identification of the root cause of faults by inspection in Estonia. Photo by Elektrilevi.

The problem with waiting for a network failure

Before NetFix, anomalies would go undetected for months until they finally caused grid failure. This would result in customers calling to complain about service outages. Then, Elektrilevi would have to analyse the problem before working to fix it, and in some unfortunate cases, the customer’s equipment may become damaged or may result in fire, which then must be compensated to the customer.

“Customers are smarter about what services they choose, and the electricity is no different. Customers are looking for consistent and quality service. They want to turn on the lights and have them work,” Keres said.

With NetFix, anomalies are detected and monitored, then preventative work is carried out as needed to repair the grid before it fails. This not only keeps power outages from happening but also increases the safety of the grid. And ultimately saves time and money.

Two use cases

A substation area experienced five faults over two months. Each time the fuse switched off, it was switched on again, but the cause of the fault was unknown. Eventually, the connector burned down and Elektrilevi received customer complaints from service outages. In the end, the fault cost Elektrilevi €3,000 in repairs.

With NetFix, it would have been clear that the substation area had inconsistent low voltage quality, which affected many customers in the area. NetFix’s machine learning algorithm would have shown that the low voltage was caused by a contact defect. Technicians sent to the site would have seen that output feeder connectors were corroded and would have repaired them before they failed. Preventative repairs would have saved Elektrilevi 88% of the overall costs.

Savings and safety

In 2021, as part of NetFix’s pilot project, 300 preventative repairs were performed to fix faults that would have added up to €145,000 in costs. This year, it’s predicted that NetFix will help save around €500,000 in repair costs. Since 2020, NetFix has detected 289 faults, and of those, 13 were contact errors which could have resulted in fires, both in the substations and in homes, if gone unnoticed.

Distribution grids in Europe, facts and figures 2020. Source: Eurelectric.

Currently, NetFix is operating in Estonia, with plans to test and implement its services in different countries where smart metering is already being used. The implementation of smart readers varies by country, which is why NetFix is looking at countries or distribution network companies that have already introduced them or are planning to do so in the near future.

By constantly monitoring the health of the electrical grid, not only do clients enjoy uninterrupted service but also benefit from ensured safety from an innovative solution like NetFix.

“At the moment we are able to predict around 12.6% of failures in the electrical grid, but with all of the data available and not just from substations, we hope to be able to solve even more issues before they happen.”

Learn more about NetFix and its applications.

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