About four months ago, at a conference at Stanford University’s Center for International Development, the economist and utility industry expert Frank Wolak turned heads with a not-so-new but very...
The ULTRA Award: Honoring Leaders in Information Technology
KCPL first with meters, automation; APS second for T&D management.
IF THE 1997 ULTRA COMPETITION CAN SERVE AS A GUIDE, then perhaps the forgotten "wires" business offers the next great opportunity for new applications in information technology.
That's the lesson of this year's contest, which saw Kansas City Power & Light Co., and Arizona Public Service Co. win the top two prizes. Each company gained recognition for IT applications designed in large part to modernize electric utility distribution systems.
Sponsored by Public Utilities Fortnightly and IBM, the ULTRA competition recognizes those utility companies that develop the most innovative applications for information technology. The ULTRA, which stands for "Utility Leadership Award for Information Technology," spotlights those utilities that have raised standards of industry excellence with technology solutions to business problems.
This year's competition singled out five award-winners. The judging focused on seven criteria: (1) How the solution addressed a corporate need, (2) uniqueness, (3) quantifiable results, (4) productivity savings, (5) cost effectiveness, (6) integration with existing solutions and (7) flexibility to accommodate growth.
IBM and Public Utilities Fortnightly congratulate the winners and thank those that submitted applications.
First Place: KCPL
If the "wires business" is truly the utility of the future, then Kansas City Power & Light Co. may have just what it takes to make the wires hum.
In late 1993, KCPL commissioned an internal study to consolidate many existing but separate initiatives for distribution automation. That effort has helped KCPL implement two major IT projects: (1) network meter reading, including data collection and storage, and (2) distribution automation, featuring capacitor bank control, switch control for service line restoration, line monitoring, voltage regulation, recloser control and fault detection.
KCPL contracted with CellNet Data Systems to provide the network meter reading services, through CellNet's UNIX-based, object-oriented database. However, KCPL drew on extensive integration with its own existing systems, such as those for billing and customer service. Meter information is stored in databases maintained by both companies. The integration effort included interfaces to extract meter readings, load profile interval data, and to receive and send such date in a real-time mode. The system is used to bill approximately 350,000 residential customers from some 365,000 CellNet-equipped meters. More than 5,100 single-phase demand meters also have been installed. KCPL can even monitor usage at a vacant premise, discouraging meter tampering and energy theft.
On the wires side, KCPL runs a metropolitan distribution system consisting of 493 circuits. By acquiring the ability to monitor and control the individual circuit power factor through capacitor automation, KCPL reports it has achieved improvements in line losses, voltage profiles and service quality. As the company explains, distribution capacitor automation offers an alternate method for monitoring, switching and optimizing power factor and voltage on each individual distribution circuit throughout the year. New capacitor controls have allowed KCPL dispatchers to make operating decisions based on real-time readings for voltage and current. Neutral current provides early warning of partial bank failures and blown fuses. Problems like cycling caused by limited flexibility of electro-mechanical controls are now resolved.
KCPL reports line losses fell nearly 7