How to cash in on smart meters for smarter outage management


Smart Grid News is working with experts from Elster and other leading smart grid companies to create the ultimate guide to AMI -- a full-scale, start-to-finish, everything-including-the kitchen-sink compendium of best practices, lessons learned and future directions. When it's complete, we will make it available to you as an eBook. In the meantime we're publishing selected excerpts. Below is the first installment written by Michael Johnson, product manager for RF Mesh Data Collection Solutions for Elster Solutions. I wanted you to see this piece because it points to a great way to get more value from your meter data. And because Michael takes you step-by-step. - Jesse Berst


By Michael Johnson


Not long ago utilities depended solely upon customer phone calls to know which areas were affected by a power outage. Estimating the size and impact involved considerable based on input from those callers, and repair crews were dispatched based on that information. Power was restored as quickly as humanly possible, with an emphasis on humanly.


Enter distribution intelligence.


Today, it’s not humans but sensors that first pinpoint and then report the position of a power outage. Moreover, today’s work management, outage management, volt-VAR and other distribution automation technologies have vastly improved past practices.  Even so, they represent only one small step toward the better future that awaits utilities and their customers.


Just what will tomorrow’s advances look like? And what do utilities need to know and do in order to be prepared for - and capitalize on - tomorrow’s possibilities?


Taking meter data to the next level

In the future, the meter data that currently fuels today’s distribution automation solutions will not only leverage modern - and increasingly powerful - analytics, it will be integrated into applications impacting business operations - from billing to customer service to outage and voltage management and more.  To derive further value from the meter data, these applications will be fully integrated with each other. That integration will enable customized, scripted workflow solutions that are accessible to everyone who needs them, anywhere they need them.


So - returning to the example above - when tomorrow’s utility experiences a power outage, a scripted workflow will draw upon multiple, data-rich applications to enable tablet-based field workers to instantly and easily:

·         Identify the affected area

·         Isolate the cause

·         Locate the nearest available repair crew

·         Dispatch this crew to make repairs by the most direct route

·         Make the repairs

·         Ping affected meters to confirm power restoration

·         Update all relevant databases about the repairs that were made


Elster's Callisto solution shown here was designed to help utilities analyze events such as outages, transformer overloading, voltage behaviors and more.


Similar efficiencies will be gained in other departments throughout the organization, as well. For instance, analytical capabilities in diverse applications can mine the collected data from many scenarios to give operational insights to managers on how efficiently the business is operating.  Analytics could even make recommendations for improvement.


Workflows which ensure proper steps and consistent data capture can help make this a reality. As you'll read in my next installment -- The secret to unlocking the value of meter data - the utilities that will thrive into tomorrow will be those with business workflow solutions that not only share information among numerous systems, but also across departments and applications. This will unlock the full value of their meter data and enable employees to operate more efficiently, productively and consistently.


Michael Johnson serves as product manager for RF Mesh Data Collection Solutions for Elster Solutions. In this role, he works on software strategy development, requirements management and strategic enterprise partner activities. 


Click for more on Elster solutions for Advanced Metering Infrastructure and achieving value/creating value from meter data.


And, click to read the second installment in the series...

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