Smart Grid Hangover?
Please welcome Bill Fenstermaker to the Smart Utilities blog. Bill Fenstermaker is a Senior Client Services Executive with Infosys and has been involved in the Smart Grid community from the inception of AMI and smart metering. The following is Bill's insight into current industry inertia and customer service hurdles:
I recently overheard a prominent industry analyst use the expression "Smart Grid Hangover" in a conversation. What an interesting description for the state of grid transformation in our industry today. Clearly in the US, the last of the DOE/ARRA stimulus monies are waning, and there has not been a whole lot of new procurement activity so far in 2012 relating to "Smart Grid" as many utilities are completing smart meter deployment rollouts and interconnecting the back office IT systems to support these initiatives. Clearly the flood of stimulus dollars spurred much activity and a rush to deploy some/many elements to improve grid intelligence and "smart metering initiatives," yet there are equally as many utilities that are watching and learning from the experiences of their peers. You might even say that the spending binge is over and the "hangover" is setting in. I clearly think the market in North America will see a quiet period for 18-24 months as the utilities that have made investments in "Smart Grid" learn lessons about their vendor and technology choices, and focus on the next phases of their journeys. What, then should we be looking to as one of the next things in terms of challenges and opportunities? How about Customer Engagement, and Data Analytics?
Now, more than ever, utilities must begin to treat ratepayers as "customers" and there is significant opportunity for utilities and vendors at all levels to improve on customer engagement - via social media, improvement to the customer portal, and via smart devices like mobile phones and tablets. This is all about leveraging technology to give customers more choices and options for interaction with their utility.
On the Data Analytics front, the sheer number of increasingly intelligent instruments, controls and intelligent sensors that utilities continue to deploy within all areas of their T&D infrastructure is generating a tsunami of data. And I have yet to hear a utility say they are truly effectively leveraging the data they have. Every one of them will say something like this - "we are really good at collecting data, but we are horribly inefficient at making sense of the data and we can't truly turn the data into "information." Now there are varying degrees of utility maturity in this area, but I do believe this presents a great opportunity in the marketplace for everyone. Utilities are spending money on Decision Support, Data Warehousing, Real-time Analytics, and Big Data Solutions today, and I would expect that as the industry in North America gets over its "Smart Grid Hangover" in the coming Quarters we will see accelerated investment in complementary, enabling domains like Customer Engagement and Data Analytics.