PKP Energetyka develops innovations in the cloud

13 January 2022

Thanks to energy from renewable sources, Polish railways are becoming an even more ecological means of transport. The Green Railway Program, implemented by PKP Energetyka, consists of many investments – including the construction of traction energy storage facilities that stabilize the availability of renewable energy for railway crossings. The effective operation of the energy distribution system, including the collection, management, processing, and analysis of data, is supported by Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning, IoT, Power BI tools, and a technological partner – Elitmind.

The energy transformation of the Polish rail towards RES means that the traction energy supplied to carriers will be generated from renewable sources: photovoltaic and wind farms. This process requires a parallel change in the approach to traction energy distribution, which changes from conventional and unidirectional to distributed and unstable.

“Sun or wind, which is the basis of RES, are very” capricious “sources – they have availability and power that varies over time. Meanwhile, trains are a very demanding recipient. Railroad crossings are not continuous, as the lighting of houses or streets, but pulsed. This means that the distribution network supplies the passing train with very high power and for a short time, and then it is unloaded again,”- says Maciej Rudko, Director of the Financial Planning and Analysis Office at PKP Energetyka.

Moreover, a speeding train consumes more energy than one running at a constant speed. The combination of renewable energy supply and rail demand for energy is therefore a very dynamic and complex process that requires modern solutions based on appropriate metering and analysis of data collected in real-time.

“Green Railway is a program of PKP Energetyka that combines actions for reliable rail transport with pro-ecological technologies. It confirms the twin transformation trend, which combines innovations in the field of energy and digital technologies, creating optimal conditions for using the potential of both, driving the growth of companies and the entire economy. Energy companies have enormous amounts of data that allow them to modernize services – forecast energy production and support business decision-making. Both clients and the environment is going to benefit from this change. Microsoft supports clients on their path to zero emissions and, together with partners, invests in the development of tools and solutions that lead to the elimination of carbon dioxide emissions, “- says Ewa Drozd, member of the management board at the Polish branch of Microsoft.


The largest railway “power bank” in Europe

In the process of stabilizing the availability of renewable energy for railway crossings, an important role is played by warehouses that absorb excess energy and release it when there is a demand. PKP Energetyka at the beginning of July 2021 launched its first traction energy storage for railways in Lower Silesia. Monthly, it supplies almost 1.5 thousand. journeys of both regional and long-distance passenger trains and freight trains. The railway “power bank” is the largest facility of its kind in Europe. This is the first warehouse of this size to operate on a 3 kV DC network. Similar infrastructure is used, for example, in Japan, but its capabilities and importance for the safety of the railway electricity network are smaller. The power of the PKP Energetyka energy storage would be enough to supply 55 000 traditional 100-watt light bulbs, 110 000 dishwashers, or 2 000 electric ovens.

“Ultimately, we plan to put into use about 300 such warehouses throughout the country. It is necessary to effectively supply the Polish railway with green energy. They will be diversified in terms of capacity and power, ” – says Marek Kleszczewski, member of the management board of PKP Energetyka.


The digital power of railways

The work of the entire distribution system of PKP Energetyka is supervised by the advanced IT system SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which is a link between the OT (Operation Technology) layer and the IT infrastructure. It ensures optimal operation of the system and collects data and parameters of its functioning. Data analytics in this process is supported by Azure and Microsoft Power BI tools.

“The combination of the forces of an innovative energy company, whose heart is modern energy distribution with Microsoft cloud technology, allows PKP Energetyka to collect, manage, process and analyze data from various sources using a user-friendly interface. A number of solutions enabling the management of dispersed energy sources and securing its appropriate amounts for the needs of railways make the company technologically ready to implement the Polish Green Railway Program, ” – says Maciej Rudko.

The Microsoft Power BI application ecosystem, based on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, supported by modern technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), are to allow for the implementation in the organization, to the fullest extent possible, of a management culture based on the data.

“Microsoft Power BI turned out to be the tool we were looking for. It is a solution fully adapted to the business user, flexible and intuitive. It allows presenting data in a user-friendly and efficient manner. Additionally, it has a functional mobile application,” – says Andrzej Nowak, an expert at the Financial Planning and Analysis Office of PKP Energetyka.

The implementation of Power BI opened the way to the use of new, advanced cloud technologies. As part of the project carried out in cooperation with Microsoft and Elitmind, it was decided to use Azure Machine Learning to build forecasting algorithms for energy production from photovoltaic panels to better balance the railway energy system. The project required the involvement and coordination of several internal departments of PKP Energetyka as well as external entities: Elitmind was responsible for the implementation of the analytical Microsoft Azure environment and Power BI reporting, the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management is a weather data provider, a company supporting data acquisition from PV panels and the owner of farms photovoltaic.

“The challenges of this project were in many areas, from data integration with IoT systems, their appropriate analytical interpretation and providing specialist knowledge in building a forecast model. We used the best of the Azure cloud and Power BI, i.e. flexibility and high performance at a reasonable cost. On the other hand, the good atmosphere and professional team of PKP Energetyka favored common creativity, ”- recalls Robert Woźniak, CEO of Elitmind.


The innovation ecosystem

The implementation of Microsoft Power BI at PKP Energetyka is still ongoing. Currently, a broad data governance model is being developed based on the framework recommended by Microsoft. The company’s digitalization plans are wide-ranging and fit into the innovation ecosystem, where system changes are followed by business effects. The organization uses e-learning provided by Elitmind, thanks to which over 50 users are trained, will be responsible for providing data who in particular business areas in the form of reports and creating visualizations. However, in order to supervise the development of self-service BI, PKP Energetyka also introduces the process of certification of reports by designated units that verify whether they can be made public inside or outside the organization. Microsoft Power BI is becoming more and more popular in the organization: currently has approx. 300 users.

“Everything is designed to translate the obtained data into information, thanks to which we will be able to make the right business decisions. This data should be of high quality and available in real-time. These are our needs and ambitions, thanks to which we will be able to better implement our mission of “supporting the development of Polish railways”, – adds Marek Kleszczewski.

Using business intelligence tools enables to achieve the goals of the company’s strategy until 2030, including, in particular, the implementation of the Green Railway Program. Everyone will benefit from it because the average annual reduction of CO2 emissions achieved thanks to it in the years 2021-2030 will reach the level of approx. 800 000. tone. This, in turn, corresponds to almost 34 000. ha of forests absorbing carbon dioxide, which is an area 3 times larger than the Białowieża National Park.

Modern diagnostics of the railway infrastructure, helicopters, and drones for testing the power network or the use of a system that predicts the occurrence of a failure are solutions already used by the company. A culture of innovative thinking and acting has been incorporated into the organization from the beginning of the transformation process. PKP Energetyka focused on innovation, systematically looking for new solutions inside and outside the company.

“We assumed that we want to be in the world’s top league of infrastructure solution providers. We would not have achieved this goal without strong support for the area of ​​innovation. ” – says Marek Kleszczewski.

PKP Energetyka is an integrator and coordinator of the Green Railway Program established two years ago by the Railway Energy Efficiency Center. The goal of the Program is for railway carriers to achieve an 85% share of energy from renewable sources in 2030, ultimately it is to be 100%.