VR isn’t just for video games anymore. Doctors are using it to train for surgeries; police officers use it in simulated terror attacks.
One utility provider in Asia is using virtual reality to train its employees to respond in the case of workplace accidents. Taiwan Power Company, the state’s only electric utility, has a broad vision of using smart technology to provide better services to the 7 million households it serves.
GovInsider spoke to Taiwan Power to find out how it is using smart grids, prioritising customer engagement and exploring sustainable energy sources.
VR and smart grids
This year, the company started training its employees with VR simulations of infrastructure collapses, so they can be prepared in case of a real workplace accident. For instance, Taiwan is vulnerable to typhoons that rip through the state on a regular basis; VR simulations can help equip response teams in dealing with collapsed infrastructure.
The use of VR is part of a broader effort to implement smart tech to improve services. “Smart technology will not only help us serve our customers better, it will enhance the skills of our employees and prepare them to be future-ready,” Taiwan Power said.
For Taiwan Power, smart metering and smart grids go hand-in-hand in creating better power services for the people they serve. Smart metering will help customers monitor and manage their energy usage; while smart grids will make power distribution more efficient.
Previously, the company depended on customers to report power outages, and would send engineers to check on the problem – wasting manpower resources and time. Smart grids speed things up – they automatically identify the fault in the circuit and redirect electrical currents. These grids achieve two aims: minimising areas disrupted by outages, and helping repair teams zero in on exactly what to fix.
Taiwan Power’s focus on minimising grid disruption is key, as energy security is a growing priority for the region. Ageing equipment, harsher weather and the prevalence of cyber attacks is making energy infrastructure more vulnerable, but smart grids can cut down on disruptions.
Taiwan Power is working with the state’s energy and industrial bureaus to develop the smart grid by the end of this year, the company said.
The utility provider wants to empower customers to lower their energy use, and play an active role in reducing consumption together as a state. It is incentivising customers with discounts on energy bills and tiered pricing.
If customers voluntarily reduce energy use – for instance, switching off their centralised air conditioning system for 15 minutes, at hourly intervals – they will be able to bid for discounts on their energy bills. At the same time, Taiwan Power charges electricity at different prices – peak and non-peak – throughout the day and the year, depending on the season. Customers are able to see when prices go up during peak periods, allowing them to lower their use accordingly.
Besides these measures, the utility provider is becoming more customer-centric in its approach. It has created a feedback app where customers can receive instant responses, and introduced mobile payments in June 2018, making bills a breeze.
The company is doubling down on alternative energy sources as part of efforts to enhance sustainability. Taiwan Power is working with CPC Corporation, Taiwan’s state-owned oil and gas company, to build geothermal wells in the mountainous Taidong and Yilan regions.
Opportunities for clean energy are as wide as the ocean. Or the sea, as in Taiwan’s case. The island state wants to harness power from the wind and waves. Taiwan Power is carrying out research at the Port of Taichung on how to generate energy from ocean currents and fluctuating water temperatures.
Smart tech, stronger customer engagement and forages into alternative energy sources have enabled Taiwan Power to provide better services for the people and make energy supply more reliable. What Taiwan lacks in natural sources of energy, it makes up for with the people’s efforts to become more sustainable as a state.