Want a smart energy future for your city? Here are 2 tools you really need

Fri, 2016-03-04 06:00 -- Doug Peeples


When Con Edison of New York and Orange and Rockford electric utilities decided they needed to improve how they respond to customers and meet their needs, upgrade their energy network and do a better job of managing their electric grid they chose to go with an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) program and install 3.9 million smart electric meters and 1.3 million gas meters.

And Council Lead Partner IBM was chosen to provide the services needed to support the technology transformation for the two utilities.

IBM will create the IT platform, manage the integration of new systems to collect data from those millions of new meters and develop the critical business processes related to the project.

So what happens with all that data and why does it matter so much?
"This technology transformation involving the collection, transfer and analysis of billions of data points will give Con Edison, O&R and their customers the tools to improve decision making and reliable energy distribution," said Michael Valocchi, managing partner for IBM Global Business Services.

That data will bring several benefits to both sides of the meter. For customers, they can get a better understanding of their energy use and control it to save on power bills. For utilities, smart meters and their AMI communications network offer utilities the ability to do a better job of monitoring and managing distributed energy (think solar and wind power, for example), pinpoint power outages, repair them much more quickly and allow the grid to provide power at the voltage levels best suited to reducing energy losses -- which is kinder for the environment. Of course, all of those things benefit customers too.

Sensors are critical too…
The electric grid is getting more complicated as power comes from a bigger variety of sources like solar and wind and electric cars are connected to it and used as backup energy storage. Because of those complications, questions of grid reliability are going to come up. That's why utilities turn to sensors (and data analytics) to keep a very close eye on how the grid is performing, what the weather is like and other conditions that affect grid operation.

The data collected from those IoT-connected sensors is essential if grid operators are to be able to predict the health of specific equipment and the grid overall -- and prevent outages.

That's what Council Lead Partner SAS Institute's predictive analytics and its partner OSIsoft's infrastructure management software do for the Salt River Project (SRP), the electric utility serving the Phoenix metro area. With 100 degree plus weather for a third of the year, customer demand on SRP's grid is enormous as they try to keep their homes cool.

SRP considers itself a customer-oriented utility and wanted to ensure those customers' demands were met and that downtime for equipment maintenance was kept to a minimum. Among other things, SRP relies on SAS analytics to analyze data from thousands of sensors to let the utility know when combustion turbines will need to be maintained -- before the work needs to be done. Predictive analytics also are used to provide SRP with a power supply outlook over the next five years. That means the utility has a pretty good idea when it may need to buy power or sell power it doesn't need.

"Reliability is critical for our customers and our business. SAS powers our ability to forecast, plan and update in real time, helping Salt River Project keep the lights on for our customers and the grid reliable whether the temperature is 75 or 105 degrees in Phoenix," said Steve Patruso, senior software developer for SRP's Supply and Trading Group."

Related articles…

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If the buildings in your city could be smarter, here's one way to do it
How predictive analytics is saving children's lives in Los Angeles

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.