By Brad Williams, Product Management vice president Oracle Utilities
For today’s utilities, operational analytics is an essential pillar in the support of the dual goals of business stability and transformation.
Given the breadth of sensor-based devices and data growth in the modern grid, operational analytics present substantial opportunities for utilities to optimise and automate efficiency, reliability and cost reduction through improved asset performance. Moreover, operational analytics enable utilities to harness previously unrealised value – economic, reliability, efficiency, and safety – by integrating distributed energy resources and interconnected consumer devices into traditional utility distribution operations.
There are numerous ways to capitalise on operational analytics, from building predictive maintenance and replacement strategies and reducing outage risk to supporting modernisation initiatives and improving overall operational control and flexibility.
Increased operational efficiency starts by improving asset management processes. This in turn creates opportunities to maximise the effectiveness of operations and maintenance spending. Operational analytics enable a utility to apply empirical decision-making to asset performance and investment, thereby optimising availability of assets against the cost constraints of providing that availability.
Operational analytics also enable utilities to adopt a data-centered approach to predictive and proactive maintenance and replacement strategies. Asset risk analytics leverage information from automated sensors and controls throughout the grid to enable real-time analysis of asset health, thus helping to mitigate problems before they become major issues. It also supports a right work/right time approach to maintenance and replacement.
The growth of consumer energy technologies and edge-of-grid distributed energy resources (DERs) present many challenges: to control and optimise the edge of the grid requires utilities to model load and have visibility down to the consumer level. Swings in distributed generation and variations in consumption patterns create information that is vital to the efficient control of the network. Operational analytics can play a central role through the creation of risk models and incorporation of DERs into the load modelling process, providing a new means for cost-effectively delivering on-demand energy while addressing climate change mandates.
Operational analytics also support a diverse range of utility and community modernisation initiatives. Some of the most exciting include microgrid and smart city projects, as well as real-time consumer marketplaces (including demand response and energy efficiency programs, net metering, and future potential for a transactive energy construct).
Achieving and maintaining load balance on the distribution grid is an ever-more-complicated task. However, using analytics, utilities can reduce outage risk through more intelligent approaches to load shifting.
Finally, there is a huge opportunity for operational analytics to assist in improving operational control and flexibility by enabling real-time visibility and optimsation of the entire grid ecosystem. Across the board, from engineering and control room activities to network operations and more, operational analytics can assist utilities to:
• manage all types of load via accurate profiling and weather-sensitivity;
• optimise grid/infrastructure capacity;
• manage growth planning through predictive analysis;
• monitor grid and equipment trends (e.g. failures) by type and across time, geography, network and organisation; and
• effectively and safely run critical grid operations, such as switching;
Platforms with big data capabilities are the optimum vehicles to deliver innovation and transformation to today’s utilities. Grid operations, asset, and work analytics can be packaged in a robust, scalable and comprehensive suite of insightful and actionable use cases delivered with effective visualisation tools to enable utilities to easily embrace and execute transformation.
Pulling data from sources including SCADA, meters, sensors, outage, GIS, weather, census and more, operational analytics can be applied to provide easy-to-use, clearly defined use cases organised in such a way utilities can easily connect the dots across the enterprise.