Big Data Insights for Smart Utilities

Utilities are embracing the 21st century digital technologies and bringing innovation to their businesses. Fortunately, the century old grid infrastructure has got attention of advanced communications and information technology service providers. Though it has come at relatively late stage when energy sustainability has become global concern, nevertheless the adaption rate of ICT by utilities is appreciable. Federal agencies have also been supporting grid modernization efforts with grants and by funding innovative technologies under EISA & ARRA programme.

Digital technologies are entering into new age with opportunities knocking at utilities door; how best to leverage the SMAC (Social Media, Mobility, Analytics & Cloud) remains a question. Big data is foremost contender with utilities since smart devices (smart meters, sensors, log data etc) have given rise to unprecedented volumes of structured & unstructured data. Amongst the smart grid key technology areas’, having smart outage management system is must have which supports the bottom line of utilities—“to keep the lights on”. Even though forward looking distribution companies has leading OMS systems in place, it is yet to unleash them to various data sources which can top-up the performance and optimize it to sense, locate & verify outage events thereby helping to reduce the ETR (estimated time to restoration). When it comes to analyze various data sources, big data analytics framework comes handy to reduce data deluge (e.g. events being generated by millions of smart meters & sensors in field) and prioritize crew dispatching to restore power to critical facilities first and similarly proceeding to next level.

Key Pain Areas for Utilities-

Extreme weather and other natural disasters continue to threaten lives, disable communities and devastate utilities’ generation, transmission, and distribution systems and often result in extended power outages for millions of consumers.

Unplanned & nature instigated outages are costing Utility industry billions of dollars every year (roughly $150 billion in NA). IDC has come up with top ten predictions for utilities in 2013 where topmost concern has been about efficiently dealing with grid network outages.

Utilities have compelling need to optimize their restoration processes by leveraging consolidated analytics to minimize economic impact & win the confidence of its customers

Utilities have been traditionally operating in manual mode and data silos with its various departments during the wide-spread outages. While the digital meters & advanced sensors helps in damage assessment but mobilizing the resources to key locations with right skill & tools at right time is a major roadblock yet. Even with larger crew size & skilled manpower, often, the purpose of quickly restoring customer’s back on the grid, by optimizing crew dispatch process, gets defeated since there is no consolidated view/details of damages happened at various locations. For instance, the utility may have a large fleet for dealing with nature induced emergencies, managing its vast grown electrical grid lines and various field related activities but they have either the manual dispatch systems or the applications which run in silos & hence there is no consolidated view of available resources, working on sites, resulting in poor & retarded dispatch process.


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