Best-in-class analytics: Lessons from utility pioneers
By: SGN Staff
By Jesse Berst
Oracle is out with an interesting new survey questioning utilities about their uptake (or lack thereof) of sophisticated data analytics.
Although it is interesting to know what other utilities are thinking, it is even more valuable to know what they are actually doing. To help with that, I spent time with Brad Williams, Vice President of Product Marketing For Oracle Utilities. I came away with these lessons from our industry's analytics pioneers. And you can also read the Oracle news release on Page 2.
Before you can analyze data, you first need to collect, verify, store and manage it properly. Most utilities are still struggling with this essential first step. Those that have gotten over the hurdle say that utilities should NOT treat data as a "traditional" technology initiative. That is, the data should not be siloed in one department.
Instead, utilities should "treat data as a company-wide asset, not something that 'belongs' to one department," Williams explains. "Many utilities are already good at the management of field assets. They should apply that same mindset to data assets." In addition, utilities should set up an enterprise-class data architecture and enterprise processes.
Most valuable data sources
Once you've got the foundation in place, the question becomes which data to make use of. The utilities who responded to the survey ranked data sources in this order:
1. AMI (advanced metering infrastructure)
2. OMS (outage management systems)
4. Customer information
The importance of cross correlation
The most valuable insights come from correlating data from different sources. For instance, combining weather data with usage data can help better manage storms and outages. That same kind of cross-correlation can help with renewables integration as well. For instance, analytics might predict areas that are likely to have light loads combined with high output from renewables, leading to reverse power flows, high voltages or disruptive voltage fluctuations.
"We've seen this problem in California with rooftop solar and in the UK and Ireland with wind," says Williams. "If you know in advance where the challenging areas are likely to be, you can respond ahead of time. You can be much more proactive if you have good data and good models for predictions."
Oracle Study Says Utilities Not Yet Seizing Smart Grid Data Potential
North American Utilities Expect Analytics Will Drive Operational Efficiency; Less than Half are Using Big Data to Improve Customer Service
Redwood Shores, Calif. â€“ July 23, 2013 â€“ Utilities today accumulate enormous amounts of smart grid data, but still need to turn information into business value. A new Oracle study, â€œUtilities and Big Data: Accelerating the Drive to Value,â€ the second annual study in the Oracle Utilities Big Data series, shows utilities are increasingly prepared for the smart grid data influx compared to last year, but still struggle to fully leverage the data collected. Significant potential still exists to use this information to drive customer service and operational improvements for business value.
Â· Oracleâ€™s â€œUtilities and Big Data: Accelerating the Drive to Valueâ€ report surveyed 151 North American senior-level utilities executives with smart meter programs to gauge:
o Preparedness to handle the big data influx
o How data is being used to improve operations and customer service
o Future short- and long-term plans to use smart grid data
o The potential of cloud-based solutions for data management and analysis
o Where utilities will derive the greatest value from predictive analytics.
Â· While more utilities say they are completely prepared this year compared to one year ago, less than half of utilities are using smart grid data to improve customer service and operational efficiency today.
Key Survey Findings
Â· Preparedness Increasing, but Still Lagging: Utilities are more prepared to manage the data deluge today than they were one year ago, with 17 percent responding they are completely prepared, up from 9 percent in 2012. However, the majority still say they are underprepared. Utilities report slight improvements in information sharing and using information for strategic decision making.
Â· Opportunity to Improve Customer Service: Fewer than half of utilities today use smart grid data to provide alerts or make other direct customer service improvements.
Â· Big Data Skills Gap is Real: Sixty-two percent of survey respondents said they have a Big Data skills gap â€“ including those who say they are prepared for the smart grid data influx.
Â· Potential in the Cloud: While two out of three utilities are considering cloud-based solutions for smart grid/smart meter data management and analysis, only 26 percent are actually planning, implementing or maintaining a cloud solution today.
Â· Utilities Believe in Analytics: Seventy percent of utilities said they expect predictive analytics to improve revenue protection and 61 percent said they expect it to reduce asset maintenance costs.
Â· â€œOur new study shows that while more utilities today, over last year, are completely prepared to handle the big data influx from smart grid, most still struggle to get business value from the information they collect. The most progressive utilities are transforming themselves now into data-driven businesses to accelerate the opportunities big data and analytics can bring to improving customer service and operational efficiencies,â€ said Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Utilities.
Â· â€œUtilities and Big Data: Accelerating the Drive to Valueâ€
About Oracle Utilities
Oracle Utilities delivers proven software applications that help utilities of all types and sizes achieve competitive advantage, business performance excellence and a lower total cost of technology ownership. Oracle Utilities integrates industry-specific customer care and billing, network management, work and asset management, mobile workforce management and meter data management applications with the capabilities of Oracle's industry-leading enterprise applications, business intelligence tools, middleware, database technologies, as well as servers and storage. The software enables customers to adapt more nimbly to market deregulation, meet ever-evolving customer demands and deliver on environmental conservation commitments. Additionally, Oracle Utilities helps utilities prepare for smart metering and smart grid initiatives that enhance efficiency and provide critical intelligence metrics that can help drive more-informed energy and water usage decisions for consumers and businesses. For more information, visit www.oracle.com/goto/utilities.
Oracle engineers hardware and software to work together in the cloud and in your data center. For more information about Oracle (NYSE:ORCL), visit www.oracle.com.
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Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.