How Early Data Analysis Maximises Efficiency for Network Planning Managers
Learn about the future of renewable energy infrastructure
Please fill in a valid email
You are now subscribed to our newsletter!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Share this article
Hot topic

How Early Data Analysis Maximises Efficiency for Network Planning Managers

TL;DR

Network portfolio managers are at the forefront of a vital transformation in today's rapidly evolving energy landscape. With ambitious targets for net zero by 2050, the energy industry has responded by building new wind and solar power generation, with many more developments in the pipeline. While this surge in clean energy infrastructure is a positive development for clean energy and climate change, it brings significant challenges to infrastructure planning, especially concerning transmission networks for electrical power. The existing global grid simply cannot meet the increased demand.

For Network Portfolio Planners, this means that traditional methods of network capacity planning and network infrastructure design are no longer sufficient. To achieve the acceleration required, planners must adopt new strategies that emphasise early collaboration and detailed analysis. Here, we explore how early collaboration can maximise efficiency for Network Portfolio Planners and help meet the challenges of modern network planning.

More Detail, Earlier

One of the biggest challenges in network planning is the time-consuming process of obtaining feedback from a multi-disciplinary team of internal and external stakeholders. Often, these stakeholders are brought into the process after much of the strategic optioneering work has been completed, which can lead to inefficiencies and delays.

To ensure well-informed decisions are made, it's crucial to introduce the level of detail typically acquired in the later stages of the project, earlier on. This detail often comes from data added by a variety of stakeholders in the network planning process, such as environmental experts, engineers, GIS specialists, project managers, critical path analysts, government agencies, regulators, NGOs, and even the general public.

Integrating this data early on is challenging for many teams using traditional methods due to multiple, disconnected tools ranging from Google Earth to GIS software packages to CAD Drawing software to Excel. Fragmented working makes it difficult to analyse data, conduct mapping and visualisation exercises, and produce reports efficiently.

This disconnected approach often leads to a 'chicken or egg' dilemma, where meaningful discussions with stakeholders are delayed until preliminary designs are in place. However, these designs are often based on incomplete data, leading to a cycle of revisions and inefficiencies. This disconnection can also be problematic at later stages because regulators require utilities to investigate multiple options and evidence their process to successfully achieve a permit for development.

Advanced 'all-in-one' solutions for energy infrastructure planning, such as Optioneer, can help streamline this process. By incorporating multiple data sets into the software from the start, these tools enable the infrastructure development team to factor in most constraints from the outset and allow feedback loops with key subject matter experts much earlier, from the initial design stage. This early access to comprehensive data and feedback can help surface potential issues before they arise, reducing the need for time-consuming iterations and improving overall efficiency.

Multiple disconnected softwares to 'All in One' solution

Multiple Perspectives, Earlier

Another key aspect of maximising efficiency in network planning is incorporating multiple perspectives early in the process. Stakeholders whose opinions matter but are not subject matter experts—such as the general public, senior management, and experts in specific fields—can provide valuable insights that might otherwise be overlooked.

By engaging these stakeholders early on, Network Portfolio Planners can ensure that their input is considered from the beginning, reducing the likelihood of significant changes and delays later in the project. This approach enhances the final network infrastructure design's quality and fosters greater stakeholder buy-in and support.

Establishing a feedback loop with stakeholders, where they can see their requests actioned and considered by the infrastructure development team, can pay dividends for a smooth permitting process and internal and external sign-off on the development.

Fast Iteration

A major issue for project timing and an aspect that is hard to account for in critical path analysis is the time it may take to iterate on a proposed route, corridor, or site when pushback occurs. Traditional network planning methods often involve laborious, manual processes that make it difficult to incorporate feedback and make necessary adjustments quickly.

Advanced planning tools can significantly improve the speed and efficiency of iterations by providing a centralised platform for data analysis, visualisation, and reporting. These tools enable Network Portfolio Planners to quickly test different scenarios, assess their impact, and make real-time informed decisions. This ability to iterate rapidly can make a significant difference in keeping projects on schedule and within budget.

Eagle Eye View

The point at which real efficiency is realised is when more than one project can be seen in the same software tool used for planning and development work. This 'eagle-eye view' allows Network Portfolio Planners to manage multiple projects simultaneously, identify efficiencies, and optimise resources across the entire portfolio.

By having a comprehensive overview of all ongoing projects, planners can better anticipate potential conflicts, allocate resources more effectively, and ensure that all projects are aligned with broader strategic objectives. This holistic approach to network planning can lead to significant efficiencies and improved outcomes for the organisation.

The Critical Path to Success

Critical path analysis is a vital component of network planning and remains a fundamental tool in project management. It helps planners identify the most crucial tasks and stages in a project and ensures that resources are allocated efficiently by identifying the sequence of crucial steps that determine the project’s duration. By incorporating early collaboration, detailed data analysis, multiple perspectives, and fast iteration into the planning process, network portfolio managers can better predict and manage these critical paths. The result is a more predictable, efficient, and agile project management process.

Conclusion

The increasing demands on network capacity planning and infrastructure design require evolving traditional approaches. By embracing early collaboration and leveraging advanced planning tools, Network Portfolio Planners can maximise efficiency, reduce delays, and deliver successful projects that support the ambitious targets for net zero by 2050. The future of network planning lies in the ability to integrate diverse perspectives, utilise comprehensive data, and iterate quickly—all of which are made possible through early collaboration and innovative technology.

Learn About Optioneer
Find out more about Optioneer and how it can streamline and accelerate your network planning processses.
Read more