Making sense of large volumes of data that power utilities have and generate

By: | Anantha Yellapragada

Publish Date: March 28, 2019

India’s power utilities sector is one of the most diversified in the world and is a critical component of infrastructure crucial for economic growth and welfare. Indian power division is experiencing a crucial change that has reclassified the business viewpoint. Sustained economic growth and increasing industrialization drive electricity demand in India. To meet the increasing demand, massive additions need to be done to the installed generating capacity and as a result, there will a steep increase in the data involved. Data is generated across all sectors of power be it coal-based, solar, hydro, bio-, wind, etc. and this data has to be segregated, updated and categorized for current and future use. Power sector needs solutions that will help navigate environmental challenges while improving regulatory compliance and operational efficiency. From smart grid analytics and meter data management to demand-side management tools, the need is for solutions that can help the sector become a best-run utility.
The Government of India is taking many initiatives like 10-year tax exemption for solar energy projects, etc., to achieve India’s ambitious renewable energy target of adding 175 GW of renewable energy, including the addition of 100 GW of solar power, by the year 2022. The Government is looking to restart stalled hydropower projects and increase wind energy production to 60 GW by 2022 from the current 20 GW. This would mean storing all the related data for more than a period of 10 years and continually upgrading or maintaining it. This cannot be done manually and requires digital intervention.
Investing in the right technology at the right time
In any business satisfying the end-users or customers is one of the most crucial tasks and the power utility sector also falls in a similar category. Utilities are expected to operate at much lower costs than their contenders while providing high service quality at the same time. With a broad customer base, Power utilities engage in vast volumes of data on a regular basis, which only increases with time. The data generated also provides opportunities and great insights into customer usage patterns and helps to create customized marketing programs, efficient billing, etc. With the right Business Intelligence and Meter Data Management solutions, power utilities can get the right insights that can help them stay ahead in a competitive scenario. To begin organizing the data a few simple steps need to be executed:

  1. Objectuve assessment of the existing systems and coming up with a strategy & plan to improve performance
  2. Migrate the existing platforms/solutions and adopt new technologies of industry standards
  3. Implementing solutions that fetch, process and stores data: Infrastructure/capacity planning & management, along with installation/configuration of applications, on-premise or on-cloud
  4. Chart out an effective migration strategy while maintaining high application uptime, reduced hardware footprint and keeping firm control over the Total Cost of Operations (TCO), maintaining data integrity throughout the entire process.
  5. Meter Data Managemen, Data consolidation
  6. Improve billing and customer services and bring in cost reduction
  7. Implement gen-next infrastructure with scalability, availability and future-ready solutions.

Deploying the right technologies
Utilities are sitting on a huge goldmine from data analytics and many other tools, with more information than ever before flowing from smart meters and other sensors, along with conventional sources of data about their operations. Today Power Utilities have access to data and the tools that can be used to deploy production analytics and generate insights that create value. The emerging technologies can target several key areas for exploration and success, including:
Structuring data
Power utilities can use the latest technologies to unravel the complexity of data and develop strategic plans based on them to build up capabilities. Most data systems at present have been set up to facilitate operations only and are unstructured. Considering the amount of data output in the Power sector, current systems might fail to capture or retain details, or they may capture them in a format that’s not helpful. A more advanced system will capture all this data in structured form, which can be compiled and compared more easily.
Consumer Database indexing and Electrical Network mapping
Development of electrical consumer and network database is necessary for many power sector applications like asset management and revenue management, energy audit, and load flow studies. GIS technology can be implemented to map HT/ LT consumers and electrical network assets. This requires a GPS survey of consumer households, the connected electrical feeders, and distribution transformers. The geo-referenced data is mapped on the satellite imagery of appropriate scale.
Customer engagement
Data analytics can help utilities understand customers and their energy usage better, and this can be used to design new products and services, such as demand-side management programs that reduce electricity use at peak times. Emerging technologies can also allow utilities to provide more accurate information to customers about power outages, repair work, and grid updates, by field crews, all of which can raise customer satisfaction.
IVRS-based consumer call center
The IVRS-based system aimed at increasing staff efficiency and improving customer services through single window clearance of all types of customer complaints ranging from no power, billing, payment related and connection-related round-the-clock service
The right tools can also help boost reliability significantly by preventing outages through more accurate predictions about when to replace failing equipment or improving outage response through situational awareness and better management of performance.
Cost reduction
Modern technologies can help power utilities increase capital productivity and save millions in operations and maintenance expenditures by improving operations, optimize capital deployment, identify the most efficient ways to reduce risk or understand procurement better.
Organize and store data
Power utilities will also need to adopt more rigorous standards for capturing, storing and managing data. Cleaning up data is a significant challenge, requiring painstaking work to rationalize what is frequently a haphazard collection of systems and restructuring them along common lines so they can share and effectively use the data at hand. Utilities will also have to get better at adopting and employing advanced modeling techniques to discover insights into the data.
The global IT market for the power utility sector provides a wide range of technologies and solutions that can address the entire business value chain in the power utility sector right from setting up the distribution network and service connection to distribution load management, delivery of power and customer services. Power utilities will need to secure quick wins using existing data and off-the-shelf analytical tools. From initial explorations, they can build up their capabilities and extend their growing expertise. There is a need to develop synergy between IT and the Power Sector, and emerging technologies can play an important role in the profitability and quality of services.
Solving the Utility Project Information Management Challenge
The ability to secure, use, and reuse documents confidently are essential to start projects faster, eliminate redesigns, and reduce development risks for utility companies building generation, transmission, and distribution, or processing plants. Adopting best practice data management through BIM and applications for Project Information Management can also help to address issues such as regulatory and standards compliance and contractor workflows throughout the asset lifecycle.
Modernizing Substation Infrastructure, Critical link in Power Delivery
The need for reliable power supply has increased the demand for aging substation redevelopment and is also driving new substation implementation into crowded cities and other demanding locations.  Utilities seeking an effective response to the substation challenges can benefit significantly from digitalization and applications that address the interdependencies of the many disciplines and workflows involved in designing and upgrading substations. Also, support operations and maintenance (O&M) teams in forecasting problems and improving asset performance through the convergence of information, operational, and engineering technologies.
There is a tremendous potential for utilities to unlock value from digital initiatives. Utilities are undertaking a digital transformation across their organizations. Modern applications are helping utilities manage their applications more effectively, securely, and efficiently, reducing project risks and boosting margins.

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