There’s a sea of options available to utilities when it comes to measuring and analysing the data they have access to. We spoke to Sanjay Krishnaa, Senior Vice President & APAC Head of engineering and technology-based solutions provider Cyient to find out more.
What are the biggest challenges facing utilities that want to begin using real time meter data or analytics platforms?
Integration with their existing operational systems such as AMS/EAM, DMS, GIS, MWMS, OMS and SCADA. To reap the maximum benefits of the network intelligence being gained through realtime data analytics, a utility needs to be able to use it and in realtime.
Based on our recent discussions with utilities, the implementation of any new system is a challenge and technically this challenge revolves around its integration with other systems already in use. Utilities normally go through a rigorous process when selecting systems and have a clear preference for commercial-off-theshelf (COTS) products. They often engage consultants while selecting these. Yet more often than not, utilities end up having to do lots of customisation on the COTS to them to make them fit and meet their business objectives. COTS solutions often fail to meet the desired requirements because:
• Utilities have siloed, disparate or proprietary systems that either prohibit or make data sharing very complex
• No existing platform is in place for unstructured data
• There is no common integration platform
• No single COTS solution meets all business requirements, as the business priorities, technologies and data architecture is changing constantly.
Furthermore, it is a challenge to develop easy data access architecture with the ever evolving needs of the utility and also their consumers.
How do you view the future of smart meter data technology?
Smart meters will become smarter, i.e. higher resolution data and distributed more quickly. The ability to acquire data in real or near to real-time at shorter intervals and distribute this information to utilities, retailers and end consumers through simple to use software (e.g. smartphone apps) will open the door for value added services around asset management, network management, commodity management and customer relationship management.
How do you see the role of the customer in the utility/customer relationship evolving?
Consumers today are well versed with the new technologies like cloud computing and Internet of Things. These ‘smart’ and knowledgeable customers have added to the utilities challenges but at the same time have given an opportunity for improving and gaining energy efficiency.
Before smart meters, utilities had very little visibility into their customer’s consumption patterns, as interactions were limited to monthly meter readings, connections and disconnections and during network faults. With the introduction of smart metering, utilities can now receive detailed information on customer usage every 30 minutes of the day. This, coupled with the emergence of Home Energy Management (HEM), will provide real-time, two-way communications, and hence more value to utilities in engaging with their customers, informing them on their energy usage and providing the opportunity for usage guidance. Recently a utility in Victoria has started using smart technologies to provide customers with real-time outage notifications. All these smart tools have not only helped utilities to drive efficiencies in energy, but it has also helped in building customer confidence.
How can real-time data have substantial benefits on energy efficiency, conservation and the environment?
A significant amount of investment from utilities has been made in real-time data, as they are looking at different means to get their maximum return on investment from their assets. It has been a part of the utilities regulatory submission to show operational efficiencies and impact on the Green Button initiative (energy providers giving customers easy and secure online access to their personal energy use data).
One of the advantages of real time data is that now utilities can provide usage and billing pattern information to consumers which can help them reduce their bill and gain energy efficiencies. They can manage their appliances during off-peak and peak periods, for example, running a dishwasher during an off-peak period. In a recent discussion with a local utility it came to light that real-time data is also helping them to improve power quality and provide more controls on voltage drop and other power filtering information.
If power demand can be effectively managed by analysing real-time data, utilities will not need to keep adding to plant capacity and power generation, subsequently providing a significant benefit to our environment.