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There’s a 70% chance of your transformer failing in the next year

There’s a 70% chance  of your transformer failing in the next year

TECHNICAL ADVISORS’ COLUMN: Tony McGrail


There’s a 70% chance of your transformer failing in the next year.
That’s a prediction (or forecast) which can’t be wrong!
If we say there’s a 70% chance of failure as an outcome and the transformer fails, then the outcome falls in the 70%, and if it doesn’t fail the outcome falls in the 30%. We’re covered come what may. The only ways to get this type of prediction wrong are to say something will definitely 100% happen, and it doesn’t, or say that something definitely 100% will NOT happen, but it does [1]. But avoid the two definite statements, and any other version of the prediction cannot be wrong.
How can we check the accuracy of the prediction if the event only happens once? It’s not like repeated rolls of a dice, which we can predict with some statistical accuracy.
If I roll a standard, fair, 6-sided dice, the chances of rolling a 4 are 1 in 6 (16.67%). If I predict I’ll get a 4, say, 50% of the time, that’s likely a poor prediction – which we can check through repeated rolls. We can roll the dice many times, but we can’t rerun the year many times. What we can do is look at similar situations, in this case other transformers, and see how well our predictions of failure probability stand up in each case: compare the estimated probability of failure with the actual outcome at the end of the year for each transformer. If I estimate a 5% chance of failure for a particular transformer and it does fail, I’m out by 95%. But how do we rate the overall prediction accuracy across the population? We can look to weather forecasters!

Dice 500

Tony McGrail 950
Some years ago, the weather forecasting folks put together a means to measure the accuracy of predictions or forecasts, called a Brier Score [2]. The score tells you how well your predicted forecast for rain, or failure, or whatever, across a number of locations and times relates to what actually happened. It does this through a mean square error, with the lower the Brier score the better the set of forecast [2]. The same approach would apply to transformer failure probabilities and can be used to check the accuracy of the forecast; and is something we’re working on at present.
If you have an interest in this topic, please contact the author! When working with probabilities I recommend checking results with an expert as things can get complicated and can sometimes be counter-intuitive [3]. Some quiz questions may help illustrate.

Quiz questions 950

References


Quiz answers 950


Acknowledgement
Thanks to Rhonda, Richard and Vanessa for their suggestions.


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Tony McGrail
Tony McGrail is Doble Engineering Company’s Solutions Director for Asset Management & Monitoring Technology, providing condition, criticality and risk analysis for utility companies. Previously Tony has spent over 10 years with National Grid in the UK and the US; he has been both a substation equipment specialist and subsequently substation asset manager, identifying risks and opportunities for investment in an aged infrastructure. Tony is a Fellow of the IET, a member of the IEEE, CIGRE, ASTM, ISO and the IAM, and is currently active on the Doble Client Committee on Asset and Maintenance Management and a contributor to SFRA, Condition Monitoring and Asset Management standards. His initial degree was in Physics, supplemented by an MS and a PhD in EE followed by an MBA.
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