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After the Awards: Interview with Capula


Capula’s Lead Engineer, Ian Bennion accepting their award from host, Jason Bradbury and Steve Edwards form Wales & West Utilities

The EIC’s celebration of the best innovation in the utilities sector, The UK Energy Innovation Awards, returns in 2019. Awards are open for entries now.


Capula won the UK Energy Innovation Award for Quality and Reliability of Electricity supply in 2017. Its entry showcased a solution that was already resulting in a reduction in transmission outages and was praised by judges as delivering “major benefits to customers”.


Capula is a leading system integrator for control and operational intelligence systems with a 50-year heritage in the automation arena. It specialises in applications across the nuclear, power generation, renewable energy, transmission and distribution, water, oil and gas, and process sectors.


Capula has worked with the UK’s National Grid for more than twenty years, installing and supporting systems including the network’s substation control systems. Having won a framework contract to refurbish these control systems, Capula sought a solution that would minimise the impact of upgrade work on the operation of the transmission grid.

Typically, replacing a substation control system would require careful programming into the grid operator’s schedule to allow for the outages necessary to protect the control system engineers and the assets. It requires careful scheduling to ensure outages are kept to a minimum, thereby minimising the impact of any outages on day-to-day service delivery.


An Innovative Solution


Capula’s winning solution changed the planning and implementation process completely. Its innovative approach significantly reduced the need for outages.

Capula Transmission and Distribution Business Manager, Martin Payne, explains: “The compact mobile unit we designed has all the functionality of the existing substation control system, and can temporarily assume control the substation bays so that we can carry out all the necessary refurbishment activities with minimal disruption to our client.”

This approach provides a better experience for the client as the mobile unit facilitates seamless integration of the control unit in situ, whilst all monitoring and diagnostics facilities and core activities remain operational. This significantly limits any impact on the electrical network, ensuring outages, which can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds a day, are kept to hours rather than days or weeks.


Entering the Award


Capula entered the award in conjunction with one of its partners; COPA-DATA, the manufacturer of the zenon energy automation software platform used for the new substation control systems. Prior to this collaboration with the automation experts, Capula had not sought to enter national awards.


Marketing Manager at Capula, Susan Boyce, explains:

“Although we had picked up local business awards, the Energy Innovation Award was the first national or international award Capula had entered. It’s the first of its type we have won – and it has proved a fantastic way to publicise what we are doing and to raise our profile in the industry.”

Martin adds, “It is also great recognition for the team that developed this innovative method. They are really pleased, and we are all proud of the recognition.”

The award win has prompted a new approach for Susan and her team. She says, “We are now more confident about putting ourselves forward for awards to enter, especially as we seem to be on a winning streak!”


What Next?


Capula continues to use its award-winning approach to upgrade the National Grid substations as the system integrator will be working to deliver on the framework for the next few years.


Beyond this, the award win has helped to foster a new commitment to innovation throughout the team. Martin admits, “We are now looking for the next innovation that will help us with the next framework. We know what will be required, so we are looking into innovative ways to deliver that work – developing innovative solutions that will set us apart from our competition. In this, it is fair to say that the award win has inspired us.”


Martin’s tips for would-be innovators


We operate in a long-established industry, but it is going through a period of intense change at the moment – from production to transmission and distribution through to consumption, it’s all change. We are moving towards digitalisation, and our customers are becoming “prosumers”. This change presents lots of opportunity to change our mindset and use innovation to make things more predictable in an unpredictable world.


Susan’s tips for would-be award entrants


Got for it! What is there to lose? Our award win followed a complete reorganisation here when a new team of directors came on board. This has really driven a more dynamic approach to getting our message out. We have a long history of delivering solutions in this industry – more than fifty years – but now we are becoming more proactive about shouting about our experience and our expertise. Awards such as the UK Energy Innovation Awards are one important way we get our message out.