Five minutes with Dr Keith Beven

Energy Source and Distribution talks with EA Technology’s managing director Dr Keith Beven about the changing face of electricity distribution, understanding asset condition, and the development of the company’s first international subsidiary in Brisbane.

How has EA Technology seen electricity distribution needs change since its inception in the 1960s?

Electricity distribution has changed significantly in the past five decades. Today, electricity usage is much more demanding and that demand is more consistent across the whole day. Homes and offices have been infiltrated by a myriad of electronic products that now are mainstream in all walks of life. Along with air-conditioning, this is a major contributor to today’s higher electrical load.

At the same time, distribution companies have more recently been tasked with maintaining ageing assets and delivering services with fewer resources, in both financial and human terms. This means doing more – much more – for less. Many improvements and technologies have been developed and implemented over time.

However, the assets still degrade so a better means of assessing asset health in order to prioritise and carry out maintenance tasks is now critical.

Today, the CBRM Methodology is recognised worldwide as the tool to accomplish this. CBRM, simply stated, provides a mechanism to bring clarity to the operational complexity and variability by evaluating asset condition at an individual asset level.

What prompted EA Technology to invest in instruments to assess and monitor the condition of electricity network assets?

EA Technology has asset management methodology that is based on asset condition. To understand asset condition it is imperative to be able to measure certain aspects of the operating environment and status. These condition factors are the basis of the CBRM Methodology, which enables network owners to understand and prioritise maintenance tasks and activities.

A major contributor to understanding asset condition is the detection and measurement of Partial Discharge (PD).
In order to accomplish this it was necessary to develop instruments that could detect, measure, and monitor PD in order to have confidence the asset is not in a dangerous or critical operating state.

This led to the development of a range of PD instruments that provide asset managers, asset engineers, and field staff a quick and accurate way to determine the health of their electrical assets. The instruments range from the simple detection unit right through to a sophisticated substation monitor that provides up-to-date, real time operating condition information that allow appropriate decisions to be made regarding each asset.

EA Technology Australia is the company’s first international subsidiary – what has been involved in getting the Brisbane branch up and running?

The Brisbane office has been in an embryonic growth stage for its first two years of operation. With our early projects, experienced staff from the UK helped the Australian market gain a detailed understanding what EA Technology could offer. In the past 18 months however, the Australian business has employed its own experienced and skilled staff. EA Technology normally accomplishes this through in-house expressions of interest or by identifying external people who bring added strength to our offerings.

Currently EA Technology completes almost all of its ongoing projects with local staff. In fact the skills and knowledge of the Australian team has meant EA Technology International has utilised Australian staff in overseas projects. Our consulting work and field work such as PD surveys, PAS 55 reviews, earthing audits, technical documentation and guideline scripting and review is all carried by our experienced and skilled team.

How has the Australian market accepted EA Technology products?

EA Technology is an ISO9001 accredited organisation and as such we have a solid client management process. To date our clients have given us a very big tick of approval. CBRM is helping several utility networks come to grips with the complexity and enormity of understanding their network asset condition, and how to better manage and spend the reducing capital to keep the assets performing at optimal reliability and maximising asset life.

How do you expect the market to evolve in the next 12 months?

Utility network owners and large electrical network owners will be trying to increase the life of their ageing assets. Australia has a significant amount of assets that were installed in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.

This will require changes to work practices and work activities, particularly around maintenance. More targeted work and increasing maintenance cycles will need to be implemented.

Pressure on the reducing capital will force these companies to find mechanisms that will enable appropriate decisions to be made.

EA Technology, of course, is in a strong position to help any company that needs to better understand this complex process. As an Australian-based business, we are easy to access.

What does your role entail?

I believe a true managing director should be like the captain of the ship, with various team members able to action their ideas and provide feedback and information on whether those ideas are working.

In essence, as managing director of EA Technology Australia I am accountable and responsible to direct and control the company’s operations and financial performance and to give strategic guidance to the board. I have to establish and embody the corporate values with particular emphasis on teamwork, particularly at senior management level.

As managing director I need to establish and maintain effective formal and informal links with customers, key decision-makers and other stakeholders to promote growth of the business and through this process prepare a five year strategic plan and annual business plan encompassing an effective sales and marketing strategy to be approved by the EA Technology Group board and monitor progress against these plans to ensure that the company attains its objectives.

To ensure EA Technology Australia does not stray from the global objectives I also ensure appropriate internal audit processes and procedures are in place in liaison with the company internal audit and/or the external auditors and from this develop and implement an appropriate risk management plan.