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Data-Driven Transformation

Building a business case around smart grid data.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2011

be achieved in the areas of meter asset management, the meter-to-cash process, field service management, and preventive maintenance.

Expanded relationships with customers : Interval consumption data instead of only a once-monthly read, smart meters, time-of-use pricing, and direct load control devices enable customers to make more informed decisions regarding their electricity usage and become more proactive.

Advanced power management capabilities : New grid management infrastructure and applications will enable greater distribution automation, self-healing capabilities, and more efficient power generation and dispatch, leading to reduced outages, improved restoration times, and lower generating costs.

Data-Driven Transformation

Given this pervasive transformation, how should utilities approach a smart grid program in order to maximize the benefits to the business? The traditional approach to large transformation projects typically focuses on technology, process, and organization as the framework that governs how projects are justified, managed, and measured. Indeed, these elements are vital for smart grid. The technology component focuses on developing a robust architecture that integrates disparate operational systems and business applications. Interoperability is a key factor in this component. The process component focuses on redesigning business practices to exploit new functional capabilities, and utilities can use smart grid as a means to make processes and customer interactions more efficient and cost-effective. The organization component can provide opportunities to rationalize resource needs, develop and acquire needed skills, and rearrange organizational structures.

While these factors are critical, developing the full value of smart grid requires a broader approach that recognizes the role and importance of data as a transformation driver and a significant source of business value and benefit. A unique aspect of smart grid is that infrastructure, such as new meters and grid sensor devices, provides an abundance of potentially useful information. The challenge for utilities is how to identify and use that information. Developing the opportunities presented by this data can provide new value as well as enable a multiplier effect by leveraging existing investments for additional value.

Data as a transformational driver and a source of business value refers to the following three areas:

New functional capabilities : The ability to perform new functions as well as perform existing functions better. Time-of-use pricing and direct load control, for instance, are new capabilities that meter data supports.

Decision support : The wealth of new data supports enhanced decision-making and planning capabilities. For example, the myriad data elements on condition and operating status that new smart meters provide ( i.e., tamper alert, low battery warning) can lead to improved preventative maintenance planning and improved meter purchasing strategies.

Increased automation : Many utilities are upgrading distribution grids by installing numerous new and modern grid control and monitoring devices. These devices can provide an order of magnitude increase in available data on grid operations over what is currently available. Utilities can use this data, via their distribution management and outage management systems, to automate processes that could lead to reduced outage times, improved restoration, and streamlined field service operations.

These areas highlight how closely data is intertwined with the other components of the smart