By Jesse Berst
At Smart Grid News, we label our webinar series "Lessons from the Real World" because we focus on practice, not theory. So I was very interested to hear what BGE has learned so far. For one thing, they are approaching analytics as an ongoing process, not a single "big bang." They are actively searching out business problems and figuring out which ones can be best solved through advanced analytics. With the momentum from a few early wins, they can then expand to solve even more problems.
Let me step you through the process as I understand it. Then I'll give you some examples of analytics projects BGE has underway. I'll finish with a few of the lessons learned.
The process of picking your targets
The Accenture consultants had a choice when they first came to BGE. They could
Instead, it initiated a series of conversations with various business groups. It provided basic education around analytics. But mostly it looked for business issues and challenges that might be amenable to an analytics solution.
From there, Accenture and BGE evaluated and prioritized the possible projects. They prioritized by several criteria -- the availability of data, the size of the potential benefits and the ability to finish within the time window (about six months for this first go-around).
Once it had its projects in priority order, the team built use cases -- or "value cases" as Accenture Senior Manager Matt Comte prefers to call them. "We look at analytics as a means to create value. We examine the business and how it is performing. We look for areas critical to the company's strategy that are in need of investment."
Real world applications
1. Revenue protection. Spotting unauthorized usage or meter reconnections by looking at consumption factors plus meter events.
2. Targeting demand response. Identifying the right customers to target for BGE's peak rewards program. And spotting DR devices that are not operational. When I talked with the team, they were finding defective or disconnected devices with 60% accuracy, and were continuing to enhance the algorithm for any even higher success ratio.
3. Voltage analysis. Identifying transformer issues. For instance, in a couple of cases BGE found transformers that were not supplying the right voltage. In another case it was a network capacitor at fault. In another, it was the meter that was incorrectly reporting voltage.
4. Net meter and defective meter identification. Identifying likely net metering customers to ensure they are registered and getting credit. (Saving a high-bill complaint when the homeowner eventually realizes.) And evaluating meter events to identify meters that might be defective. Since BGE has had some issues with overheating meters, it was especially eager to spot high-temperature meters before they caused an emergency
During the webinar, we'll talk more about the quantifiable benefits BGE is seeing from these and similar projects.
Tom Humphreys is BGE's Project Manager, Advanced Metering Capabilities. I asked him about the learnings from these initial projects. He echoed what I've often heard elsewhere: "It's important to have an executive sponsor, someone at the top with the vision who is engaged and driving execution," he told me.
After all, other departments and business units have their own projects and deadlines. It can be a challenge to get them to pause their normal activities to help identify issues and build use cases -- sorry, value cases. Tom and his team started with larger group meetings to lay out the concepts and give examples of analytics opportunities. Then they held a series of smaller meetings with each business area to understand their needs and brainstorm ideas.
You'll hear more specifics from Tom and from two Accenture analytics pros during our data analytics webinar on March 26 which begins at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time (1:30 p.m. Eastern). It is free to SGN readers, so click the link if you want to learn from this real-world example. While you are on the registration page, take a moment to type in any questions or worries that are top of mind. We'll get your questions to the presenters so they can prepare answers in advance.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.