For the first time in a hundred years, the electric power utility industry is undergoing a momentous change. Distributed renewable power generation, especially solar photovoltaics (PV), is introducing competition into an industry that has been managed as regulated monopolies. Consumers with solar PV panels on their roofs (and in not-too-distant future with Tesla batteries in the basement) and companies like Solar City (co-founded by Tesla co-founder Elon Musk) are fundamentally changing the traditional utility business model. A recent report from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) report refers to disruptive challenges that threaten to force electric power utilities to change or adapt the business model that has been in place since the first half of the 20th century.
As a result, every aspect of the the electric power industry is changing. One of these changes involves the role that geospatial data and technology play in the electricity industry. In the past, geospatial has been a tactical tool — it was (and still is) used in a variety of applications — in outage management, asset management, mobile work- force management, energy density modelling, vegetation management, demand modelling, transmission line siting, substation siting and design, energy performance modelling of buildings, disaster management, and mapping renewable resources, to name just a few. However, with the changes that the industry is undergoing now, geospatial is poised to become a foundation technology for the smart grid.
The Energy Issue of Geospatial World Magazine explores the impact that this momentous change is having on the application of geospatial technology in the electric power utility sector. Below I'm providing an overview of the material relating to electric power you'll find in this issue.
GIS has been widely used by utilities for years for automated mapping/facilities management, back office records management, asset management, transmission line siting, and more recently for design and construction, energy conservation, vegetation management, mobile workforce management (MWFM), and outage management (OMS). Now, utilities are integrating GIS with automated meter infrastructure (AMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Intelligent design has crossed over from the office to the field in utilities, also enabled by the capabilities of GIS, says Smith. Geospatial-related analytics (spatial analytics) is seen as one of the key aspects of success for electric utility operations in the smart grid era. Looking for patterns and correlations between different land, weather, terrain, assets, and other types of geodata will be increasingly important for utilities. Power-related analytics with geospatial components include network fault tracing, load flow analysis, Volt/VAR analysis, real-time disaster situational awareness, condition-based maintenance, and vegetation management. 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.
Peter Batty reports on the major growth in geospatially-enabled Web and mobile applications with a special focus on the open source geospatial community and the significant impact of these technologies in the utility sector. "In general, there are a lot of geospatial open source software components available now that have the capabilities and robustness to be used in serious enterprise applications." John McDonald, Chairman of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel has been a firm believer for a long time that geospatial information is part of the foundational platform for smart grid. SGIP has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Open Geospatial Consortium with the goal of incorporating more geospatial standards into SGIP standards. Cindi Smith of Bentley goes even further and argues that “geospatial technology is already a foundational component of electric power utilities’ IT/OT systems. Smart grid simply brings more focus to the role it can play by virtue of the visibility of smart grid projects and processes in a utility and their need to exploit the vast amounts of data produced by the smart grid." Loek Bakker & Jan van GelderIt of Alliander, a Dutch utility company, describe how essential it has been for Alliander to integrate GIS, ERP and SCADA systems for a correct picture of its assets. As electric utilities evolve into increasingly data-driven organisations, Jeffrey Pires and G. Ben Binger describe how GIS is fast emerging as the backbone for data management platforms.
Cities are beginning to develop 3D models of underground infrastructure motivated by new underground remote-sensing technologies and by ROIs of up to of US$21.00 saved for every US$1.00 spent on improving the quality level of subsurface utility information. Steve Dibenedetto, Senior Geoscientist and Technology Manager, Underground Imaging Technologies (UIT), part of Caterpillar describes new remote-sensing technology for detecting and geolocating in 3D underground utility infrastructure such as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Electromagnetic Induction (EMI).
The Indian on-going Restructured – Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program (R-APDRP) is one of the largest IT initiatives by electric utilities anywhere in the world — in one integrated project, all state-owned distribution utilities in India are building IT infrastructure, IT applications and automation systems. The programme set out to create baseline data in the form of consumer indexing, GIS mapping and asset mapping. Reji Pillai & C. Amritha assess how GIS can be applied in this context.
Integrating geospatial and BIM is a key enabler for energy performance modeling which is a fundamental instrument for reducing the energy consumption and improving the energy performance of new and existing buildings. According to a report from Navigant Research, global zero energy buildings revenue is expected to grow from $629.3 million in 2014 to $1.4 trillion by 2035.
Wolfgang Eyrich of Entegra shares how Entegra’s primtech product, which is designed to help substation designers deliver designs based on integrated product modelling, provides a geographical context to substation designing.
Matt Zimmerman of Schneider Electric highlights one of Schneider Electric's key techologies "graphic work design" which is integrated geospatial and engineering design (CAD or BIM). Schneider Electric's geospatial division focuses on developing integrated, location-aware enterprise solutions such as integrated outage management (OMS), customer information system (CIS), GIS, and external weather reporting and forecasting service to help plan crew deployment during a storm. Matt foresees that location-aware predictive analytics for electric networks is going to be one of the major development areas for utilities in the future. Brad Williams of Oracle points out that spatial analytics is becoming a key technology for electric utilities because everything a utility does - customers, assets, and operations - involves location.
One of the biggest challenges that utilities are experiencing is increasing volumes of structured and unstructured data (big data) that is overwhelming traditional enterprise systems. The structured data comes from smart meters and intelligent electronic devices, and the unstructured data from social networks including Twitter, Google, Facebook and other social applications. Consumerization of geospatial technology (we are all GPS-enabled sensors) will enable crowd-sourcing new sources of information about electric power networks most of which involves location (big spatial data).