Electric Utility RX for a Prosperous Future

Sept. 20, 2017
Digital Conversion with a Double Dose of Analytics

At this stage of our modern-day technological revolution, most everyone is impacted by the pervasive changes spurred by internet connected technology.  As consumers, the internet of things (IOT) drives our communications, learning, entertainment and many other aspects of our lives. In business and industry, the industrial internet of things (IIOT) is bringing about changes in how industrial processes, including those in the power industry, operate, monitor, communicate, store, analyze and even self-diagnose information more and more adeptly.   

We have posted a number of articles on this site regarding the benefits of digital substations, including partial conversions, to increase capacity, reduce space requirements, improve safety and improve substation functionality.  We also touched upon the advantages of digital substation components for monitoring, diagnostics and reliability within the substation.  The networking opportunities extend from there. As one example, for utilities that have upgraded to include multiple substations/digitalized assets, ABB offers the SDM600 System data manager, a comprehensive software solution for automatic management of service and cyber security relevant data across multiple assets. It provides disturbance record handling, cyber security management and maintenance and service data management.  

The SDM600 System performs with input from specialized data analytics software.  Another example of data analytics in use can be found with basic distribution automation monitoring and control up to advanced applications like fault & outage management and Volt-VAr management,  all offered by ABB.  Every digital device placed in the substation or on the grid improves situational awareness and the potential for leveraging system performance using analytics to investigate, interpret and communicate or act upon meaningful information derived from collected data. 

Many utilities are moving down the path of digitization with advanced metering.  Leading utilities are going the next step with distribution and outage management systems and digital substations. However, experts suggest there is a world of untapped potential available when the advanced analytics inherent within these systems individually are fully integrated and become functional enterprise wide. Digital components and advanced analytics will facilitate more efficient operation of utility networks, improve flexibility and resiliency, speed repairs and aid with the design of system expansion. It is hard to imagine utilities surviving at top-tier performance going forward without the broad adoption of digital technology and the full use of analytics.

The Utility Analytics Institute (UAI) recently released a new study, sponsored by ABB, which explores the utility industry’s adoption of digital technology and the extent to which early adopters have exploited advanced analytics to optimize their operations. UAI’s report, “The Current State of Smart Grid Analytics,” provides valuable insight regarding the progress utilities have made with analytics, their business objectives for the efforts, the challenges encountered and the solutions being pursued. One thing appears certain; mastering the power of data analytics in the utility arena will be a high priority for the foreseeable future and most likely a valued core competency. And it doesn’t end with the mastery of basic descriptive analytics or data mining.  From there we are seeing diagnostic uses, predictive analytics and prescriptive applications. If Dorothy were with us, right about now she would be saying “Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”

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