The Infosys Utilities Blog seeks to discuss and answer the industry’s burning Smart Grid questions through the commentary of the industry’s leading Smart Grid and Sustainability experts. This blogging community offers a rich source of fresh new ideas on the planning, design and implementation of solutions for the utility industry of tomorrow.

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December 31, 2010

Infosys- Sponsoring and Live Blogging from DistribuTECH 2011

We are excited to announce that we are sponsoring DistribuTECH 2011, a leading Smart Grid conference focused on the emerging areas within Smart Grid as well as T&D system operation and reliability and water utility technology. DistribuTECH which will be held held in San Diego, CA from February 1-3.

Distributech.jpgOver the next month and this new year our entire team of bloggers will focus on the far reaching effects of Smart Grid as well as our views on the future of automation and control of distribution systems as we approach DistribuTECH 2011.

We will blog around the key focal points of Smart Grid consulting, continuous road-mapping, the evolution of systems integration and revolutionary products and services that further enable Smart Grid.

Also if you are not able to attend the conference or cannot make your way to our booth, you can stay up to date with live updates and blogs from the conference.

Stay tuned for an exciting month of thought provoking blogs. Happy New Years to you and yours from the Infosys Smart Utilities blog team!

December 28, 2010

Squeezing Asset Performance!

"Squeezing asset performance" is what a ratepayer seeks.
An avoided capital investment, whether it is in Power Plants, Transmission Lines, Substations, Distribution Assets or Meters, keeps the electricity rates stable.

Also reduced O&M and increased productivity helps in reducing the rates.
So what does it mean for a Utility; can the increasing energy demand be met without adding to the generation capacity or creating additional infrastructure?

The answer lies in applying simple concepts like 'car-pooling' and 'cloud-computing' to the electric grid coupled with advanced communication and information management.

Smart Grid components like AMI, DR, DMS/SCADA, CMMS, have the capability to collect useful data from the grid and process it in order to create the 'avoided' capital investment plan. This can be achieved without compromising on the grid safety and reliability.
Some of the application-functions that can be utilized to achieve this are:

1. Real-time Optimal Switching for load sharing between circuits and transformers
2. Demand Response involving auto-remote switching of air-conditioning/heating loads
3. Dynamic Pricing for flattening the load-curve
4. Distributed Generation including plug-in electric Cars
5. Auto-VAR Compensation for improved power quality and optimal equipment loads
6. Grid Alerts and Auto-Isolation using centralized remedial action schemes
7. PMUs to identify grid disturbances
8. Real-time Displays for monitoring energy consumption
9. Smart Customer interaction portals for customer education and participation in energy management initiatives

It's a three step process that can lead to an optimally utilized grid:

1. Collect data from every device critical for maintaining uninterrupted energy supply
2. Process data in order to extract useful information on grid stability in near and long term scenarios
3. Have the ability to remotely operate devices, preferably automatically, with built-in intelligence.

Sounds simple.... but as always the devil lies in the details.

December 23, 2010

Smart Metering - Is it really changing the face of Utilities

The benefits of Smart (Advanced) Metering deployments have been quantified in many different ways by established business cases from major Utility companies. But, has the industry been able to reach a state where we can measure the true benefit realization from Smart Metering deployments?

It is interesting to note that adoption of Smart Metering is broadly intended to change the way consumers perceive their Utility company from someone who merely provides electricity/gas service to one who provides innovative products and services. However, major Utilities who have deployed Smart meters partially or fully are yet to change the perception of consumers. The primary question one needs to ask - are consumers really changing their consumption behavioral patterns based on the new services being launched, such as online usage analysis, alerts to energy savings programs such as Demand Response?

Actively engaging the consumer to participate in the new paradigm of services and features is probably the most critical success factor of Smart Metering deployments. Utilities should actively explore options to provide newer avenues of services that can be achieved through Smart Meter deployments. This can include introducing customers with concepts that will excite them - such as the 'Smart home of the future', and ensuring that consumers understand how such services will enable their future digital life-style. Some aspects that Utilities would need to consider are:

  • Integrate customers as a key stakeholder in the process, by, providing them access to information real-time, any time
  • Enable information sharing through varied channels of communication, such as web, mobile devices, kiosks and probably even ATM machines
  • Send relevant alerts on mobile devices and phones with interesting tips
  • Smart home devices and integrated and intuitive display of energy usage patterns
  • Comprehensive and inclusive consumer education process

In summary, the next generation of Smart Metering deployments should focus on the end consumer as the theme, rather than Utility business and operations.

 

Smart Meter (Device) Asset Management

 

Today, I want to talk about Asset Management and why meter asset management needs to evolve from how legacy meters have been managed over the years by utilities. I will talk about smart meters in this blog but the discussion is equally valid for any smart device.

 

Smart meters have a meter module, 2-way communication device, utilize sophiscticated communications infrastructure, are remotely operated (reads, disconnects/reconnects), and support potential DR programs. These new meters will provide frequent data that will be fed to the billing and customer service systems. Fraud, theft and other alarms can be automatically integrated with Work Management systems. Integration with GIS systems will lead to efficient location of meter asset. Data analysis based on any outage notification can lead to better outage management from integration with OMS. It is critical that these smart meters be managed as an enterprise asset under a Enterprise Asset Management plan.

So, what are the benefits of asset management? Utilities need to identify asset management objectives and identify the top priorities that they need to address for asset management. Some of the high-level objectives are:

  - Optimize Asset Utilization

  - Increase Asset Reliability 

  - Reduce Maintenance Costs

  - Improve Collaboration - Procurement, Operations and Maintenance

 

Utilities needs to then quantify the benefits from these top priorities. The quantification is necessary to justify the business case as well as prioritize desired business capabilities for Smart Meter Asset Management. Once capabilities are prioritized, utility can create a value-based implementation roadmap to enable smart meter asset management.

December 14, 2010

Information Management

Today we will talk about information management - a much required capability that utilities need to carefully evaluate as they go through Smart Grid deployment.
 

What is Information Management? Simply put information management is not just about technology but is about managing and leveraging information.

 It is about putting structure to how information is organized, how it is stored, how it is accessed and how it is delivered and used by various business units that need it. Broadly, information management has three key components - IM Organization, IM Engagement Processes and IM Tools and Methodologies. Undertaking an Information Management initiative a utility will formalize many of the tasks done by operational folks, IT support personnel and other resources.
 

So, why do utilities need Information Management? As utilities deploy AMI, and other related programs, they will see a surge in data that is gathered from Smart devices. With that utilities will see an increase in information needs from employees as well as from consumers. The questions that a utility needs to ask are:
-       How business value is created utilizing data/information?
-       Does it have management in place to provide high-quality information and reporting solutions?
-       Does it have an enterprise wide data model to reconcile differences between application-specific data models?
-       Do people have a common understanding of definitions across the enterprise?
-       Are cross-functional needs for data access and usage addressed by the proposed architecture?
-       What information quality tools and methodologies are needed to maintain data quality?
 

Information Management will aid in implementing an operating model to sustain information quality, data model, practices and processes associated with information organization and delivery.
 

Next time, we will talk about how to enable this capability and how to put this into practice as utilities deploy various Smart Grid programs.

 

December 2, 2010

The SmartGrid Challenge: Create Smart Consumers

SmartGrid sounds so modern, so exciting, and so cool - like... umm... say lightsabers. So how can consumers not get excited?


Well, for one, consumers take electricity for granted. So it is difficult to get them excited about conservation of electricity in any form. No one wakes up and pledges to save 5 kWh through the course of the day. And to be fair, we can't expect them either. Electricity consumption is "habitual" in nature and we cannot expect consumers to change that overnight. And then who likes to pay bills? And here we are talking about possibly increased bills. Not to mention that the definition of a SmartGrid would leave even the smartest people scratching their heads.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 defines Smart Grid as
"Smart Grid is basically a transition from our current centralized, producer-controlled network to one that is less centralized and more consumer-interactive".
It further states
"It is the policy of the United States to support the modernization of the Nation's electricity transmission and distribution system to maintain a reliable and secure electricity infrastructure that can meet future demand growth and to achieve each of the following, which together characterize a Smart Grid:
(1) Increased use of digital information and controls technology to improve reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric grid.
(2) Dynamic optimization of grid operations and resources, with full cyber-security.
(3) Deployment and integration of distributed resources and generation, including renewable resources.
..."

Wow. That's quite a mouthful and then some. Given the complex nature of the whole Smart Grid, the onus now lies on the utility companies to go out and educate consumers about SmartGrid in a lucid language that they will understand and appreciate. Since the benefits are long term, we should look at various aspects of communication.
1.       Near term: Provide information through consumers' preferred channel of choice. This would include direct mail / bill inserts, email communication, SMS, social media, and possibly through a direct message when consumers call the contact center.
2.       Medium term: Build dedicated site that talks about the program, challenges, progress and allow early adopters to share their views.
3.       Long term: Partner with schools to provide kids with a focus on conservation, its merits and how SmartGrid can help. Leverage the fact that kids can often act as a great catalyst to change parents' behavior too. Build resources/sites that schools can use to educate kids on SmartGrid and its impact.

In 20 years, we would have trained the consumers to look at electricity differently. The house they live in will be programmed to use electricity when it is most efficient to use. The rate structures will mirror market movement and consumers will control usage by a touch of a button or through an interface provided by their smart phone.

However, until the idea of a SmartGrid becomes more familiar to all, we need to anticipate questions, doubts and possibly even opposition. The key to overcome will lie in patiently answering questions and educating consumers; all the while working our way resolutely through the opposition of doubters and naysayers. A large part of the success of SmartGrid will be defined by how utilities and consumers interact over the next 5 years.

The Energy Act defines 10 characteristics of a SmartGrid. To read more about SmartGrid, please visit
1.       http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm
2.       http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:H.R.6:

The Importance of Vision During Implementation


The Smart Grid community has laid out the importance of creating a roadmap from the onset of Smart Grid enabling technologies. The majority of utilities, in turn, have sat down and shaped their vision of tomorrow's Smart enterprise. As the focus shifts from planning to project execution, there are many common pitfalls. The vision has now been laid out in a list of discrete, granular projects. The challenge is then to create a truly integrated Smart Grid from seemingly separate projects while ensuring the Smart Grid vision continues to evolve.  

In most utilities the Smart Grid project team has been assembled from a variety of line of business IT stakeholders, business stakeholders and core project managers. These individuals are key to the successful implementation of a component of the overall vision. However, if the utility company allows for the independent execution of the project there could be a significant impact on the realization of the overall roadmap. Unfortunately, one of the greatest issues during the execution of a transformational project is the creation of Smart Grid project myopia.

The project team will execute against the defined goals of the individual project but will lack the vision to ensure the project will seamlessly integrate with the Smart Grid roadmap. When carrying out this particular project it is important to have a distinct and separate team that works in an advisory and oversight role to ensure that the granular aspects of the project meet the evolving needs of the corporation's Smart Grid landscape. This oversight role ensures a truly integrated Smart Grid and does not sacrifice vision for project execution.

The project team is incentivized on the successful completion of the project but this is limited to that individual project. There are tough decisions that need to be made during the project that can limit the scope of the project but also limit the scope of the Smart Grid vision. These decisions may cut the cost of today's Smart Grid plan at the expense of a technology landscape that will not evolve with current industry trends. Although the cost of execution may be greater today, these tough decisions can limit the amount of rework required to integrate with future Smart Grid components. With the oversight of a separate Smart Grid vision team each project will be executed with respect to an evolving landscape and savings can be realized through a truly integrated Smart Grid technology landscape.