Blog by Swati Dora, Prolifics Associate Client Success Leader
As a Texas resident in February 2021, I lived and witnessed the major power crisis created by a severe winter storm. Living without power for a week, we suffered shortages of water, food and heat. Not in my wildest dreams had I ever thought of being deprived of these basic necessities of life.
Today, even after losses of at least $195 billion due to that 2021 winter storm, I’m wondering whether the winterization of the Texas infrastructure is being implemented – or contemplated. As much as I would love this to happen with a flip of the switch, I understand it’s extremely complex and would need the government, regulatory commissions and community to come together. Looking at the big picture, the best way to prevent such disasters in the future is with the overall modernization of energy and utility (E&U) assets.
Most of our electricity grids were built way before our concerns about climate change. As we see the world becoming more digitized and adopting advancements like electric vehicles (EVs), there is a shift to the decentralization of renewable energy generation. This puts a lot of pressure on our centralized grids to evolve.
Energy and utility industries are investing in ADMS (Advanced Distributed Management Solutions). ADMS is one of the strongest examples of IT-OT platform integration – the convergence of information technology (IT) systems with operational technology (OT) systems. Though tough to implement, ADMS detects and manages outages thoroughly, efficiently and quickly. I’ve been a part of the ADMS journey for couple of energy and utility players. It’s a journey of several initiatives in tandem, such as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Advanced Grid Intelligence and Security (AGIS), Meter Data Management System (MDMS), Outage Data Management System (OMS), Work Management System (WMS), and data analytics. From my experience, an ADMS project works effectively when implemented in agile methodology as a long-term strategic initiative.
How to modernize
- Master Data Management. With E&U enterprises built over decades, data is definitely spread out, siloed and possibly redundant. Progress brings more, and different types, of data, such as EV charge points and vehicle charge statistics. Keeping the business needs in mind, a Master Data Management solution can connect data, resolve redundancies, and handle the exponential increase in data, utilizing both structured and non-structured databases.
- Integration of Data. An application doesn’t meet its true potential if it doesn’t leverage its capabilities by interacting with other systems. For example, outage information via the customer relationship management (CRM) application has to talk to the SAP Work Management application to schedule work and address the outage cause. The CRM application also has to talk to the Outage Management System to get the latest restoration time updates. An Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) can address these orchestrations by handling the exchange and transformation of disparate data across IT/OT regions.
- Master Data Analytics. Historical data analysis helps us predict the demand for electricity generation and outage restoration. With digitization and the internet of things (IoT), more real time data is available like never before. Leveraging this data with an analytic engine can mean better planning for grid optimization.
- Security. The need for advanced threat protection, cyberattack prevention and securing IT/OT applications is a top priority. We are secure to the extent we are aware of these threats – but there is always a learning curve in terms of identifying risks and mitigating them.
Based on your technology roadmap, there are numerous modernization offerings. No matter which you chose – on-premise, cloud, hybrid – there are options within each. In the subsequent series, I will be sharing my thoughts on the technology stacks you can choose from to implement modernization.
The tangible business values of modernization
- The extended lifespan of capital assets. One of the primary focuses of the E&U industry is to build assets to generate electricity at maximum efficiency. For planning the generation and distribution of electricity at good yields, one has to nail the demand and supply theory. With DER (Distributed Energy Resources) and adverse climate change effects, the need for integrating data within assets is more important than ever. Distributed generation and storage creating two-way power flow is the new mantra. By adopting the integration of data and analyzing it in real time, electric distribution system reliability will improve.
- Employee safety and engagement. Automating certain inspection processes is on the rise. For example, using an UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) to inspect thousands of miles of transmission lines can reduce surprise sudden costs and even prevent wildfires. Transforming legacy applications built over years to low-code platforms can help reduce overhead and streamline business processes.
- Customer Satisfaction. A key focus of any industry is customer satisfaction. While keeping the lights on is basic customer satisfaction, the need to look into how much better the E&U can align with a digitizing world is also important. From providing rebates for installing solar panels to incentives for buying an EV, industries are doing a good job here. The need has risen for customers to know their efficient energy usage in real time, to store energy for charging, and to afford fast charging capabilities. The balancing act between customer affordability and enterprise rates will become more difficult as customers demand more from their providers.
If we want to work toward the global dream of net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, let’s harness our efforts to gain the maximum rewards from all assets we have. Even if you feel a project is too complex or the “to-do” list is unbelievably long, together we can work to build a more efficient E&U industry.