[Innovation] Continuing a project to digitalize a substation in Serbia via a virtual tour

RTE international experts visited a Serbian 110kv substation virtually in April 2020 using a 360° camera.


This innovation made it possible to continue the project to transform the substation into a full digital smart substation despite travel being postponed. The project aims to digitalize the Serbian grid’s substations and to test the digital technology that is essential for the massive integration of renewable energy sources. Serbia’s geographical position makes it one of the main electricity hubs in Eastern Europe.

Balancing security and project continuity

The innovation provides a solution to balancing security and project continuity. Several alternative solutions could be put in place to cope with travel being postponed. In order to continue the project to digitalise a substation for EMS, the Serbian TSO, and despite the current context, Issam Kifouly, the engineer leading the project, had the idea of filming the substation with a 360° camera. Thanks to EMS teams’ collaboration, we were able to get footage of the whole substation switchyard, power supply, telecom and control rooms. Once the video had downloaded, RTE international experts were able to visit the substation virtually and begin their study.

Cloning the digital technology of the Blocaux substation

This project consists, among other things, of digitalising a 110 kV substation near Belgrade using technology similar to that tested at RTE’s Blocaux site in Picardy. It is one of the major investments implemented by EMS to modernize its grid. Serbia is situated right between Eastern and Central Europe. It facilitates interconnection from EU countries – such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia – to non-EU countries – such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. With the support of the European Union and thanks to the Agence Française de Développement for funding this project, the digitalisation of this substation will confirm the success of the digital substation’s technological progress. The first deliverables were recently completed, and the study should be finished at the end of the year.

The digital substation, between flexibility and efficiency

First of all, digitalising a substation offers an immediate advantage. It optimises and secures the operation of existing facilities. This new technology manages transits in real time and ensures optimum performance at all times. The grid is also much more versatile and responsive to constraints and the multidirectionality required for the increasing integration of discontinuous renewable energy sources. As Serbia is a hub for electricity trade, this real-time control capacity will contribute to enhancing security of supply in Europe.

” We were able to see the structure and components of the substation in detail. We then discussed our differences of opinion and our views. The 360° video clarifies any doubts and allows us to make informed progress.” This success convinced Issam Kifouly to consider the use of virtual tours even after the travel ban has been lifted.

Issam Kifouly

Project Manager, RTE international