lundi 21 mai 2012

Energy data harvesting: reinventing the light bulb

A utility executive recently commented that the electric utility industry is undergoing the most dramatic change since Edison perfected the light bulb over 100 years ago. Indeed, utilities have operated as stodgy, slow-to-react enterprises for years.
That’s all changing however, mostly due to the advent of new technology that is allowing utilities to harvest huge amounts of data that was previously unavailable. The deployment of millions of smart meters and sensor technology to monitor substations and distribution lines is enabling utilities to offer new services to customers and improve operating efficiencies.
Reaping the benefits
Utilities face a major challenge in reaping the benefits of data. First, they must come to grips with exactly how to harness reams of new data that flood into operation centers on a daily basis -- often several times an hour. Once they conquer that daunting task, utilities must then determine how to manage the data in a way that works best for them. It represents a sea change compared with how things have been done in the past.
“Given the volume and velocity of the data coming in, most utilities want to complement their investment into the smart grid and are taking this very seriously,” says Carol L. Stimmel, Director, Smart Grid Practice at Pike Research.
“If utilities want to to improve their overall performance and find cost savings and look at improving customer relations, this data is where they need to be looking.”
Investor owned utilities
Stimmel says that while large investor owned utilities are leading the charge into smart grid data analytics, smaller and midsize utilities are not far behind. Just how important is the new data? Consider that utilities spent $356 million on smart grid data analytics tools in 2010, and that the market is expected to reach $4.2 billion in 2015.
Although Europe has represented the majority of the revenues, data from Pike Research suggests that North America became the biggest market in 2011.
South Central Indiana REMC, the largest distribution cooperative in the state of Indiana in the U.S., recently signed on to deploy the MeterSense meter data management (MDM) solution from NorthStar Utilities Solutions. The primary driver for the system is to empower its utility members with better data analytics for energy conservation and to improve the operational efficiency of the utility.
“A key part of this initiative is to serve up detailed information to our members,” says Greg McKelfresh, Senior Vice President of Business Technology at South Central Indiana REMC. “They’ll be able to view details of their consumption by time of day and also compare their current rate with the new time of use rates that we'll be introducing. Once our members understand their consumption patterns, they'll be able to make better decisions about when to use energy.”
Proactive data management
By being pro-active about managing its data, South Central Indiana REMC will be able to validate and sort the data being delivered by smart meters. In addition, it will be able to present energy information reports and analysis to members, and provide data for operational analysis by the utility. In addition to providing long-term storage of the data, the new information can help the utility to analyze, identify and diagnose line losses. 
By properly managing its data, South Central Indiana REMC has been able to engage consumers with a "Beat the Peak" time of use program that asks consumers to reduce usage during peak periods. The utility reports back to consumers as to how they ranked as far as energy reduction among their peers. Consumers have embraced the program without any kind of financial incentive, and the utility sees participation growing every day. 
“What we’ve seen is at the onset, most utilities are just trying to solve the initial problem of being able to use the new data for billing, which is the primary function of the MDM,” says Miqdad Jaffer, Product Manager for Northstar Utilities, “and then being bale to put the data into a format for the billing systems.” 
Data storage
Jaffer says that many utilities are going one step further. Since the other benefit  of MDM is long term data storage, utilities are integrating work flow automation and data analytics within the application. “So some of the dat analytics you look at relate to asset utilization, maybe how transformers are loaded or where leaks are happening,” he says. 
The new data gives the utility sector a new sense of visibility that was lacking previously. Stimmel says that regulators, government agencies, environmental groups, and even shareholders are becoming more interested in the data that utilities are collecting from smart meters and are asking them to share the information and the results of their data analyses. For example, the new data helps these groups to stay informed as whether utilities are meeting their energy management goals, such as reduced carbon emissions and increased energy efficiency.

Source : Smart Grid Update

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