Under the hood of OG&E's successful smart grid deployment


By Jesse Berst


Expert NASCAR fans know the truth. Although the drivers get the publicity, much of the success depends on the car -- more specifically, what's under the hood.


The same with a smart grid installation. Sure, it's important to have a strong project lead. But much of the success depends on the tools, technologies and techniques "under the hood."


That's why I was so pleased to get a chance to learn what is powering OG&E's smart grid project, widely regarded as one of North America's very best. We've recruited OG&E Expert Solution Architect Joel Webb to participate in a webinar titled "Success secrets of OG&E's smart grid deployment." (Click the link to reserve a spot. Free to SGN readers while space remains.)


In preparation for the webcast, I talked with people familiar with OG&E's "Positive Energy Smart Grid Program." Below I've distilled several of the key learnings. (We'll go into more detail in the webinar while also giving you a chance to ask questions.)


OG&E background

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OG&E is a regulated electric utility company that serves over 750,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Its Positive Energy Smart Grid Program, funded in part by $130 million in stimulus dollars, has four main components:

1.     Advanced metering infrastructure

2.     Distribution automation

3.     A range of in-home technologies

4.     Dynamic pricing programs


OG&E was not content just to slap up a few smart meters and call it a day. The deployment's ambitious goals included:

·         Provide "digital-grade" power

·         Optimize efficiency and asset utilization

·         Improve resilience against attack or disaster

·         Empower new services: Build a platform for delivering new products, services and markets


Oh, and one other thing -- they were charged with completing what should have been a five-year journey in just three years instead.


Lessons learned

My initial research uncovered many great ideas. Here are three highlights:

Best-of-breed development process. You may be wondering how OG&E is hoping to complete a five-year project in just three years. One answer is that it is running a number of projects in parallel. Another is the use of the Solution Delivery Lifecycle methodology, which provides:

·         A centralized repository for deliverables

·         Automated workflows

·         Standards, processes and templates

Enterprise data architecture. Far too few utilities take the time to create an enterprise data architecture. Only by treating data as a crucial company resource can utilities extract full value. OG&E has set up a basic data warehouse called the "Information Factory." Although the warehouse includes many different data types, it uses a single schema across the utility.


By using a separate data warehouse, you make it easier for many different apps to tap into that data as needed. And to use it without needing lots of "hard-wired" code. And without bogging down the meter data management system or other databases of record with multiple queries from multiple apps.


And there's lots more under the hood

I only had space here for a few highlights. We will cover much more during the webinar, including: the importance of a "holistic" reference architecture; the goals and progress of OG&E's demand response program; how OG&E handled meter data management; the importance of an enterprise services bus; and how OG&E is building an advanced distribution management system (integrated with outage management and Volt/VAR control).


Joel will be joined by Ed Rossi, Senior Product Management and Strategy Leader for Smarter Infrastructure at IBM, OG&E's long-term partner in the project. We will talk about some of the challenges OG&E faced as well. Examples include integrating products and services from many different vendors; the introduction of many different technologies simultaneously; and finding and integrating new staff members with advanced skills.


And, as we always do, we will take your questions as we go along. If you can spare 60 minutes on Nov. 1, please click the link to reserve a spot. Free webinar: Success secrets of OG&E's smart grid deployment.


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.


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