Data Analytics – Helping Utilities Make Informed Decisions

Partnering with data innovation companies may help utilities fill in service gaps.
Published: Fri 28 Nov 2014

In this live panel interview about data analytics, Engerati invited three guests to the studio at European Utility Week 2014: Einar Hoffmann, Managing IT Architect, DONG Energy; Edwin Poot, Founder & MD, Energyworx; and Jeff McCracken, Sr. Product Line Manager, Itron.

Data analytics optimising energy delivery

All speakers agreed that data analytics is changing the delivery of energy to consumers and that data should be used to improve energy efficiency and utility operations.

Hoffman says that DONG Energy uses data analytics to optimise the operation of different systems. He says that analytics provides insight into the large volumes of data that have been collected so that informed decisions can be made. He explains that analytics helps DONG Energy to point out capacity issues on the aging distribution grid so that they can improve balance and grid stability. “Data is of no value to us without analytics. We use analytics to get key information on which we can base our decisions and this can also prove to be challenging sometimes,” says Hoffman.

Data analytics is certainly having an effect on the utility’s fundamental business, according to McCracken who points out how it can improve the reliability of energy delivery, improve customer satisfaction, as well as operational efficiency which results in a reduction in operational costs. He adds that there are different types of data analytics solutions for different parts of the utility business and Itron’s aim is to build on existing solutions in order to help utilities deliver energy in a more sophisticated manner.

Getting more value from data

Hoffman says you must have a broader view of all the data received from all the systems in order to make a proper analysis of the data and that sometimes it’s worth considering using a vendor which can provide the raw analytics power that is needed to deal with the data flow and provide the appropriate results. He says it is important to focus on the bigger picture and on situational intelligence.

The panel touches on the idea of partnering with appropriate vendors to help fill gaps in the field of data and analytics, thereby acquiring visibility into end-to-end operations. McCracken says that network devices with computing power distributed all over the utility landscape provides enormous possibilities for theft and fault detection, as well as capacity issues.

Poot explains that to get more value from the increasing quantity of data, you have to upscale your internal IT landscape such as servers and capacity and this is where utilities are struggling since it is not their core business. It is for this reason that his company, Energyworx offers an infrastructure that enable utilities to carry out analytics more efficiently and in real time. He points to one project called “smart allocation” which uses live data from the smart meter to allocate electricity consumption. He points out that it is all about scaling up with low costs.

Poot discusses how the combination of meter data with other sources of data can provide better insight for the utility and their customers. The additional sources of information could enable utilities to provide an extra added service for customers which will only improve the customer engagement level. Poot explains that utilities often reach a point when they find that their own facilities are limited and as a result, turn to vendors for additional innovative features and services. He adds that the energy sector must look at how they innovate and use technology. He suggests that utilities focus on their core business and allow other service providers to assist where necessary.

The panel agreed that the development of internal and external partnerships is key to tackling the issue of big data and its effective analysis.