"Big Data" challenges for the grid: EPRI survey results and analysis


By: SGN Staff


By Doug Dorr, Christina Haddad, Alberto Del Rosso


Data analytics and challenges associated with data management represent two new challenges for electric service providers world-wide. In fact, a recent industry survey by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has identified the pending "big data” inundation as one of the larger smart grid-related research and development gaps in the electric industry.


This particular gap is widening as the power grid evolves from a very basic (minimal data needed) system - mainly focused on reliable and affordable electricity - to an even more affordable and reliable system - that can supply end-to-end visibility, configurability and flexibility.


While power system hardware and operations innovations have been continual and incremental over the past century, the modernization in terms of grid analytics and diagnostics is relatively new and is changing faster than the industry can keep pace. Surprisingly, the ability to aggregate and manage these new data sets is not the challenge. Getting quantifiable value out of the data and defining the most effective ways to map this value to specific business areas is the emerging opportunity.

Likewise, it is not a stretch to envision line crews and subject matter experts controlling inspection, splicing, and fabrication robots using heads up displays and tablet PC’s. However, before those kinds of innovations proliferate, the industry needs to get its collective arms around the most pressing concern today - big data management - and associated analytics.


Along with the general consensus that big data and analytics are on the radar screens and the research agendas for the power industry - the EPRI survey also revealed some other interesting findings. For example, nearly three quarters (72%) of the respondents believe they have a unique data-oriented application that may not yet be utilized across the electric industry and they believe that other utilities could benefit from these behind the fence analytics efforts.


These "pockets of innovation” within utilities suggests that there may be a significant value proposition for an industry-wide collaboration to demonstrate the benefits of data intensive applications where utilities have common data sets and systems and results from one utility are likely applicable to many.

Additional results included the two most important anticipated benefits are improved operational efficiencies and improved reliability. The biggest challenges identified were cyber security followed by data integration issues. These two challenges are connected to another issue - "speed to market.”


In today’s digital age, there is a growing expectation to be able to access any information at any time and an increasing frustration with delays in the ability to rapidly implement a data-oriented application when it is known the data exists.


EPRI believes the value proposition of an international multi-year collaborative demonstration initiative can bring tremendous benefit for the industry-at-large and ultimately to the public to help accelerate the application of high-value data-oriented applications within the industry.


Doug Dorr, Christina Haddad and Alberto Del Rosso are employed by the Electric Power Research Institute.


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