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Expert says data will be key to successful smart grid deployments

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, May 09, 2012

As utility executives go about planning smart grid deployments, many often overlook a crucial aspect that could potentially hold enormous business value for companies across the country: data management.

Ron Clanton, a partner at KPMG and leader of the firm's Smart Grid division, stated that "leveraging data as a source of value is the key to establishing and realizing a strong smart grid business case."

The smart grid is unique in that its infrastructure - comprised of highly advanced smart meters and intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) - can provide utilities with a wealth of information that has the potential to help it develop new functional capabilities, enhance business decisions and improve new automated programs, such as substation automation.

"Data has the potential to be a key transformational driver in helping utilities optimize new opportunities from smart grid investments, with customer experience, utility operations and advanced power management as areas that can benefit," Matt Smith, Chicago-based principal in KPMG's energy advisory services, added. "The challenge for utilities is how to identify and use that information to transform their business."

Clanton added that in a data-centric smart grid, the abundance of information can be assessed proactively, as opposed to tending to data solely through process and systems requirements.

"This approach complements - but doesn't replace - traditional approaches to large scale business transformations, and demonstrates the value in placing data on equal footing with technology, process and organization," Clanton said.

Utilities can use a three-tier process that can help them use data to give the smart grid transformation even greater value.

First, Clanton and Smith say, all data must first be identified. This is accomplished by assessing current systems, understanding data capabilities and highlighting data that is available, but either cannot be attained or used. Once this has been done, utilities should assess the potential value in their data, which includes comparing potential information with planned usage.

The final step includes mapping the new data opportunities into an enterprise model.

To collect, manage and analyze such vast amounts of data new smart grid technologies will provide, utilities are turning to SUBNET products, such as SUBNET SubSTATION Explorer - a solution that unifies visualization and control of all critical substation information taken from dozens of different IEDs in a single system. 

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