At the Second Annual Summit on Data Analytics for Utilities in Toronto, Brad Williams, Vice President of Utilities Industry Strategy at Oracle, made the case that in the context of smart grid spatial analyics is going to be a key technology because everything a utility does (customers, assets, and operations) involves location.
Brad outlined a number of areas where spatial analytics are going to be applied including reducing non-technical losses, targeting demand response, distribution operations planning, transformer load management, data quality, voltage correlation (linking meters to transformers), energy modeling, voltage deviation monitoring, geographicl outage frequency analysis, and predictive analytics for electric vehicle adoption to name just a few.
Brad's analysis is supported by a 2012 report from Navigant (Pike Research) that forecasts that the increasing penetration of GIS into smart grid workflow applications, such as MWFM, DMS, energy management systems (EMS), OMS, customer information systems (CIS), and analytics will be the primary driver for electric utility GIS software and services growth with an annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8%, increasing from $1.8 billion in 2011 to $3.7 billion in 2017. Navigant expects that in there will also be growth, but at a slower rate, in GIS in utility construction and engineering-related GIS applications driven and this will be led by the power grid build-out in Asia Pacific.
Smart grid will make GIS a foundation technology
GIS is currently applied tactically by utilities in several areas. GIS has widely used by utilities for years for automated mapping/facilities management, back office, and plant and infrastructure architecture, engineering, construction (AEC). Increaslngly it is also being used for asset management, mobile workforce management (MWFM), and outage management. But smart grid is going to make GIS strategic. GIS is already being applied to AMI, DMS and integrated with SCADA by early adopters. Navigant project that with the development of the smart grid, GIS will become a foundation technology for interoperable grid operations.
"The smart grid is all about situation awareness and effective anticipation of and response to events that might disrupt the performance of the power grid. Since spatial data underlies everything an electric utility does, GIS is the only foundational view that can potentially link every operational activity of an electric utility including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMSs), renewables, and strategy planning.
Navigant sees the the challenges to effective adoption and use of GIS in the electric utility involve data complexity and quality, mobile workforce requirements, loss of GIS knowledge and skills through retirement, organizational structure, and the GIS vendor ecosystem.
An analysis by Research and Markets entitled Global GIS market in the Utility industry 2012 - 2016 projects that the utility GIS market will grow at a CAGR of 10.37 percent over the period 2012–2016. Research and Markets sees one of the key factors driving this market growth is the growing need for knowledge infrastructure. But it specifically targets the lack of awareness about utility GIS in developing countries as a potential inhibitor to market growth
Other challenges relevant to the utility GIS market include data quality, managing the mobile workforce, and changing the organizational structure of utilities. .
Navigant identifies a history of poor GIS data quality as a major problem in the utility industry and reports that poor GIS data quality is an area of significant concern for smart grid planners who plan to use GIS as a foundational data layer for interoperable grid operational processes. I have blogged about the challenge of data quality in the utility industry on a number of occasions.
At a recent conference a speaker from a Canadian power utility emphasized that a key prerequisite for a successful data-driven analytical approach for utilities is quality data. His utility found that when they started to make investment decisions based on their analysis of their operational data, the deficiencies in their data sets immediately become apparent. For example, they found that only 76 % of their connectivity data was reliable, the remaining quarter was unusable. To ensure the necessary level of data quality and reliability data governance (processes that ensure that important data assets are formally managed) was a key underpinning of his utility's strategy. They implemented major projects to cleanup their connectivity and other data. Realizing that data quality is perishable, they also implemented a data governance policy and focused on improving business processes that produced bad data. For example, the processes for managing as-builts is major challenge for many utilities as I have blogged about on multiple occasions, most recently here.
Mobile workforce requirements
Navigant estimates that 60% of all electric utility employees work in the field on assets that have spatial attributes. It also points out that managing a field workforce is a significant challenge, when data including location about assets in the field are missing or incorrect.
Navigant sees the divide between the information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) sides of the business as an inhibitor to smart grid adoption. Navigant sees GIS as a critical technology to bringing these two sides of the business together.
Transforming the utiility GIS market
A critical factor is depth and quality of the skills, tools, and solutions that are available to support GIS-based applications . The traditional vendors in this space are Esri, Intergraph, Autodesk, Bentley, GE/Smallworld, and Oracle, but Navigant sees that the integration of IT and OT to support smart grid is going to transform the market through mergers and acquisitions. The effect will be to dramatically increase the size of the market.
GIS has had limited implementation in smart grid applications such as SCADA, EMS, DMS, and advanced DMS(ADMS) and is in the innovator stage of adoption in this area. Some of the technology developments in GIS-related applications that Navigant sees as becoming important include geospatial database developments relevant to utilities such as "real-time big data", cloud, mobility and communications technology, 3D, and remote sensing.
Navigant sees geospatial-related analytics (spatial analytics) as the key to the success of electric utility operations in the smart grid era. Geospatial data overlays to search for patterns and correlations between different land, weather, terrain, assets, and other types of geodata will be increasingly important for utilties. Power-related analytics with geospatial components include network tracing, load flow analysis, and real-time network analysis. Real-time and historical outage situational awareness, device failure and maintenance history, reliability, and vegetation management also require spatial analytics.
Geospatial data is also critical for analytics relating to long-term power system evolution. Analyzing structured and unstructured data sources to uncover patterns in the data isa growing area but will require high performance computing to enable it to be applied in near real-time.
Navigant points out that one of the challenges is that many utilities have numerous siloed GISs and concludes that "GIS usage in smart grid applications will demand a high degree of accuracy and timely, synchronized updates, which will be difficult to orchestrate in a federated environment. Ultimately, utilities will have to implement a GIS repository of record that supports smart grid requirements." To me this means that the stage is set for a transformation in how utilties use GIS that will make it a foundation for managing the smart grid and fully realizing the benefits of smart grid technology.