Incentive for More Reliable Networks

Ensto grants three-year extensions on guarantees for underground cable joints and terminations when the installer is certified by Ensto.

A remarkable share of the delivery breaks for an underground cable network is caused by installation faults of cables and cable accessories, says the Europacable Accessory Committee, a cooperative organization of cable manufacturers. The organization strives to find a solution for this increased problem via pan-European- and regional trainings, plus accreditations. “The number of installation errors has significantly increased in Central Europe,” says Markku Wederhorn, the President of Ensto Utility Networks and a member of Europacable. “This is probably because of the change of installer generations and thus the disappearance of existing know-how.”

The influences of installation faults in this field are well recognized in Finland, too. It’s important for network companies to take care of their property and look for more accurate information on the prevalence of installation-based defects. No research-based material is publicly available, but some electricity companies in Finland have conducted their own studies, examining items that are in use now or that were disassembled during renovation projects. According to an investigation by the Aalto University School of Electrical Engineering, up to 50 percent of installations showed deviations from installation instructions.

Certification project started in Finland

As a pioneer in the field, Ensto has offered installation trainings for a long time. A next logical step was to develop an installer certification system for underground cable products.

Markku Rantio, Sales Director, Ensto Utility Networks, is a member of the installer examination work group (subordinate to the Finnish National Board of Education), which creates examination questions and oversees the organization of installer examinations in Finland. “We thought that the same examination concept could be applied to the certification process. The same principle could be applied to installer training and certification could be obtained via a skills test, and this way we could ensure a high quality of work,” says Rantio.

Ensto introduced the certification concept at the Network 2015 Trade Fair for Electricity and Information Networks in January 2015. “It aroused lots of interest right away,” says Rantio. “Encouraged by feedback, we began to pilot certifications with the Finnish electricity network contractor, Enerke.” Enerke’s goal in the pilot was for 80 to 90 percent of its installers, at minimum, to receive certification. So far, almost 40 installers have passed the certification. As a result, there is at least one certified installer in each of the operating areas and each of the 10 places of business of the network company.

Goal: improvement of reliability

The new Electricity Market Act, adopted in 2013, obligates network companies to significantly improve the reliability of electricity distribution by 2019. According to the new law, the longest permitted delivery break is six hours in densely populated areas and 36 hours in areas that are sparsely-populated. Many network companies have tackled this issue by increasing the volume of their underground cabling.

PKS Sähkönsiirto Oy is a conventional overhead line network company with a share of low voltage cabling in the network of about 12 to 13 percent, and approximately 2 to 3 percent in the medium voltage network. “By 2028, we shall invest 400 million euros in improvements of the network and underground cabling,” says Jukka Leppänen, Construction Manager responsible for building PKS Sähkönsiirto’s network. “When underground cabling becomes more common, the expertise of the installers and quality of the installations will be emphasized. This can only be maintained and controlled via regular trainings and certifications.”

According to Janne Huotari, Enerke’s CEO, it is clear that high-quality operations reduce the number of electricity distribution failures and decrease costs for the service company. The company tries to prevent harm caused by failures by operating as best it can – following the control model of the Energy Authority. Quality is a matter of cost. “If electricity cannot be distributed due to low-quality installation, it will increase costs for all parties involved,” cautions Huotari.

Repairs under warranty are also expensive. A trained installer is able to guarantee to the employer that the work will be performed correctly the first time. The installer doesn’t need to return to the work site, which prevents extra costs. Repairs under warranty also make a company’s reputation worse in next to no time. Of course, a company image is impaired by any quality deviations and faults due to the installation errors. “In some cases it’s easy to verify if the fault is due to installation or materials,” says Huotari.

Added value to the product and service

Ensto grants an extended guarantee for its underground cable products when installed by a certified installer. This way, Ensto takes responsibility for possible mistakes made by the installer. The guarantee is extended from the normal two years to five years.

Huotari sums up: “The skills test confirms our installers’ installation expertise related to the cable accessories, and in exchange Ensto can grant the extended guarantee for its products.” For Enerke, certification is a large investment in man hours, but the company is happy to make this investment. “Employer well-being and training are important for us: our employees appreciate that the employer makes investments in their expertise, and the certification improves installers’ professional self-esteem and confidence.”

To Enerke quality is a clear differentiating factor. “Enerke wants to be an operator that emphasizes the importance of high quality and not just low price,” says Huotari. “Our goal is to become the best service provider in Finland in terms of quality and price, and this kind of cooperation is the key to success.”