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Growing trends in smart grid analytics

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, December 17, 2012

A recent report from GTM Research outlines the top trends that have been identified in smart grid analytics, and the ways utilities are improving the methods they use to collect and analyze data, then leverage this to improve operations.

According to GreenTech Media, utilities all over the world are collectively spending tens of billions of dollars on smart grid improvements, such as intelligent electronic devices (IEDs). These thousands of new sensors, relays and other equipment will generate untold amounts of data, and having the right systems in place - both hardware and software - will send the data-collection market worth well beyond a billion dollars.

"With the influx of big data, the potential of smart grid has shifted dramatically from the original aim of adding a myriad of new devices toward a complete re-invention of the way utilities do business," said Rick Thompson, president and co-founder at GTM Research. "We are now moving into a market where the spotlight will be on the data analytics software that will allow utilities to track, visualize and predict everything from grid operations to electricity consumption."

The new report, "The Soft Grid 2013-2020: Big Data & Utility Analytics for Smart Grid," found that the smart grid analytics market is expected to grow from a worth of about $322.5 million in 2013 to $1.4 billion by 2020. Total expenditures on all hardware, software and smart grid expertise, which will be needed to ensure these systems are properly integrated into the grid, are expected to amount to $8.2 billion by 2020. With the data already streaming in and only some utilities with the appropriate infrastructure to handle it, many say quickly developing a business approach based on smart grid data analytics will be crucial.

Fortunately, venture capitalists and corporate investors have been keen to inject money into smart grid development, and the U.S. government has been increasingly partnering up with the nation's largest industry players to help get big data intelligence in the utilities industry off the ground. The ultimate goal is to help power companies discover key insights that went unnoticed before the age of big data, then use these insights to improve operations, greatly increasing grid reliability and customer satisfaction.

The report found that unstructured data will be one of the largest challenges utilities will face in 2013. However, many services will be available that will help companies leverage the deluge of data. SUBNET, for example, has been named in previous reports as one of the foremost leaders in driving substation automation, remote monitoring capabilities and NERC CIP compliance.

SUBNET has made a name for itself by creating vendor-agnostic software that allows a utility to collect data from any type of IED across any communication platform, then analyze this information on a business' preferred IT network. Such advanced smart grid technologies will be crucial for organizing huge amounts of grid data and improving interoperability among grid devices.

According to the report, integration will be another major point of focus for utilities. This will require gathering all existing data into sets that fit together with new devices and systems. This could quickly devolve into a mess for companies without the right infrastructure in place

Meter data management (MDM) has been one of the most serious issues for today's utilities, and will likely continue that way for some time in the near future. In fact, the report stated that MDM will remain the biggest priority for utilities in 2013.

Still, the report also noted that "in the next wave of innovation, transformer sensors, cap banks, voltage regulators, distributed PV solar panels, and other grid assets will gain the ability to communicate their status updates back to the utility."

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