Renewable Power is key to a sustainable future, and digitization of power delivery networks will be a key enabler for this. 

Albert Varghese Rajan, our next pathbreaker, R&D Engineer – Analytics at Hitachi Energy, is part of the HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) Business Unit, and addresses problems related to increasing the lifetime of power products through data analytics.

Albert talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about developing an interest around data science based solutions to energy forecasting and delivery challenges !

For students, machine learning has a multitude of applications in the electrical domain, from predicting faults, analyzing faults to identifying the causes of faults in power systems.

Albert, can you tell us about your background?

I was born and brought up in Kerala. My father worked in a bank in Kuwait and my mother was a homemaker. I studied in an ICSE school near my home. I chose science and computer science as I am fond of Math’s, Physics, and Computer Science. I used to play badminton and cycle around our neighborhood with friends during my leisure time. I also collected stamps, coins and started reading books after I got fond of Harry Potter. I used to take part in debates, elocutions, and extempore competition.

What did you do for graduation/ post-graduation?

I was fond of engineering from my school days and prepared for engineering entrance during my 11th and 12th standards. I studied electrical engineering in a college called Carmel Engineering college, Kerala.

I did Post graduation in Energy Systems from University of Petroleum, Dehradun and another masters in Renewable Electric Power System from Linnaeus University, Sweden

What were some of the influences that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

My key influencers were people I looked up to during my studies and job, as well as my parents and teachers.

I always looked up to my mentors in my previous jobs. They really polished my skills and professionalism. 

My mentor once told me, “You should never feel comfortable in your job. If you feel you are comfortable, then you are not learning ”. I always keep these words in mind and try to push myself in whatever work I am doing, or when I take up a new role. I remind myself not to stay comfortable. Learning is perpetual, it doesn’t mean it stops once you get a job. I try to spend some time learning something new, stay up to date on what’s happening, and try to improve myself. I try not to limit myself, but keep trying out different things, maybe different sports. 

Moving to different places for studies and work was always a turning point, each step made me a better version. I was doubtful and afraid about the choices I made. But I stayed true to myself and my purpose. With blessings of God, now I am here.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path.

I never planned my career. I followed my interests and passion, and it changed as I got to learn and experience new things. But I always focused on learning new things. Whenever I felt I was not challenged enough I looked for better opportunities.

After graduation, I wanted to experience work as an electrical engineer, and I was able to find a job as a Electrical Site Supervisor in Kochi. I worked there for 10 months. I was also exploring opportunities for higher studies, and I got an opportunity for post-graduation in University of Petroleum and Energy Studies in Dehradun. 

I studied for a Masters in Energy Systems. During my studies, I got an opportunity to do an internship as an Analyst in a company called Climate Connect in Delhi. I really got fascinated working there as I was fond of programming, and I got to work on Power Markets. After my masters, I worked in Climate Connect for 2 years as an Analyst and 1 year as Data Scientist.  

Climate Connect, when I joined, was looking into applications in Energy domains. They were researching and developing energy market price forecasting models, electricity load forecast models as well as renewable energy generation (solar and wind) forecast models. These models make predictions for different time horizons, but mostly: day-ahead and intraday. During my role as Analyst I was working for a few of our clients, but for the bulk of the time I was working for one of the biggest distribution companies. We were supporting the department that was responsible for reducing distribution loss. We provided analysis that helped them to identify localities they have to  focus on to reduce the losses. It was a huge experience for me as I got to learn about the techno-commercial part of the domain. I was able to come up with logic to identify energy theft, which was useful for the distribution company. Other works included working on periodical reports that covered the main analysis and news in power domain across South Asia. After 1 and half years as analyst, I got promoted as a Data Scientist, after the company noticed my interest. I was scaling up in Data Science by taking up online courses from ‘Udemy’ and ‘Edx’.

As a Data Scientist I worked on electricity load forecasting models for various power distribution companies and solar generation forecasting models. I worked in this role for a year.

I started exploring better opportunities outside India by the end 2018. I found Sweden to be the best destination as they were leading in terms of Research and Development, Innovation and Technology in domains of Data, Energy and Sustainability.

I opted for a course MS in Renewable Electric Power Systems in Linnaeus University. I moved to Sweden in the end of July of 2019. I was able to meet my expenses with part time jobs and scholarships.  I did my Masters Thesis at Hitachi Energy. I really enjoyed my thesis and working in Hitachi Energy as I got to work in my areas of interest: data and electrical engineering. In my thesis, I got the opportunity to work on a very high dimensional transient dataset with analog and digital signals which are sampled at a very high frequency. Applying an unsupervised neural network-based clustering algorithm, I was able to cluster the different types of transient events. This work has a multitude of applications in the real world, from predicting faults, analyzing faults to identifying the causes of faults in power systems.

I got a permanent job offer in Hitachi Energy after my Masters and joined them in August 2021. Since then, I have been working as an R&D engineer in the Analytics team in Hitachi Energy, Sweden.

How did you get your first break?

My first break was my internship in Climate Connect where I was able to work with power domain data and perform data analysis using different tools like excel, Python etc…

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Challenge 1: I was not able to identify my areas of interest and passion during my initial days of my career.

Challenge 2: I had to learn new tools and techniques every now and then, to keep up with new technologies

Challenge 3: Since I work along with highly experienced and proficient people, I have to be prepared every day 

Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?

I work at Hitachi Energy where I address problems related to increasing the lifetime of our products using the best analytics method. I am working in the business unit (HVDC – High Voltage Direct Current), which is a technology that has been developed in the very place I am working from, which makes me very proud and tremendously happy as I could contribute towards a sustainable future. Through HVDC links, we transmit power over long distance between countries or continents. This is specifically used in connecting offshore windfarms, solar farms etc. thus, these links are enablers for better grid interconnectivity, making it possible for better energy exchange which accelerates renewable energy integration. I am working in a team looking into the digital products of the HVDC. 

What skills are needed for job? How did you acquire the skills?

Skills required are varied, from mathematical modelling to programming, analytical and constantly learning.

Typical days are all planned. We plan our work every quarter of the year and we collaborate with a team of around 5-9. We follow the plan and could be developing a new feature of our product. But sometimes unexpected work also comes up.

How does your work benefit society? 

We are working towards a sustainable future where sustainable electricity is the key and Digitization will be a key enabler for this. 

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

It was making a 5 year long term forecast for 15 big states in India, and how much of their electricity will be met with solar.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Keep exploring and trying out new things. Then only you will understand what excites you the most. Do what excites you the most. Always follow your passion, and success will follow.

Future Plans?

Publish my own patent.