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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Should "Analytics" be one of the core strategic systems in Utility Smart Grid initiatives?

As the utilities transition into the smart grid, one of the major changes the companies will experience is the availability of vast information with high degree of granularity. Many utilities are preparing to capture data from smart meters every 15 minutes - that requires something like  200 TB of storage, including disaster recovery factored in. When they move into 5 minutes intervals, that would become 800 TB - 1 minute would become 1.5 PB (peta byte)! If you include local sources of alternate energy such as solar or wind, the volume will further increase to 2 -3 times. On the other hand, it would allow the next generation smarter utility companies to do real-time optimization and drive predictive analytics to improve operational efficiencies, customer service, energy efficiency and better asset utilization.

Think about how the entire notion of customer engagement will change as utilities begin to learn more about consumer behavior - much like how mobile or credit card companies are able to slice and dice the customer data. Using predictive analysis, these companies will be able to figure out when the customer might potentially switch to another provider. In a deregulated market such as Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and many other states that follow, the utility companies will face unlimited competition within the marketplace where the consumer is free to choose any electric provider - with the notion that more choice and more competition will lead to lower electricity monthly bill. Therefore, with understanding consumer behavior, better customer service will become an important goal that no utility company can ignore today. As the new smart meters are deployed, the meter data can be used to accurately predict - a meter that is likely to malfunction in 30 days, Power outage in next 1 hour or demand spike in 3 hours - things like these will bring in change the way the quality of customer service is provided.

"Analytic solutions" - are no longer a "nice to have" , IT enabled systems that are often done at the end of implementation. Given its significance in smart grid, utilities must think about "analytics" as one of the core strategic initiatives, a part of the IT infrastructure modernization and enterprise solution investments to better prepare for the smart grid transformation journey. Top 3 key implications that utilities need to think about are:

a. Information is in silos - Many utilities back office applications were built over several years and many are isolated from one another. As demand grows, some of these applications suffer from severe scalability and information redundancy issues.
b. Interoperability - challenge in information unification across the Grid network, distributed energy sources, service delivery, customer interaction and consumer energy usage
c. A robust information storage technology - The unprecedented volume of data and the expectation to do real time data analytics presents unique challenges to the storage technology.

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