Data Integration-Critical to Utility Asset Management

Utilities can expect long-term benefits from system and data integration that supports operations, maintenance and demand response.
Published: Fri 14 Feb 2014

The optimization of asset utilization—both systems and people—relies heavily on the level of data and systems integration that a utility attains. Utilities notice that this integration is seeing a major improvement in energy reliability and operational efficiency.

Low distribution asset utilization figures show that opportunities exist to better utilize resources instead of building new ones. Since it’s not always possible to achieve 100% utilization without compromising cost, reliability, safety, and other performance goals, data and asset integration has the ability to offer some promising results.

The optimization of asset management relies on comprehensive and actionable data which is gathered from a number of systems:

  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)

  • Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)

  • Customer Information Systems (CIS)

  • Geographic Information System (GIS)

If the data from these systems is integrated, utilities will be better-equipped to make more informed decisions across core functional areas of the business:

  • Planning—The utility needs comprehensive data to develop efficient plans for both new and existing assets which are needed to meet projected growth in capacity and electric consumption, enhance reliability, and support new interconnections.

  • Operations—Better insight into accurate data will help to monitor conditions, assess impacts, and operate distribution and transmission systems to ensure reliable and efficient results.

  • Maintenance—Data can help utilities improve the way in which they develop and implement preventative maintenance programs that eliminate reactive/break-fix maintenance.

Utilities experience difficulties when data systems function independently of eachother and this limits efficient access to information.

Data integration-the benefits

According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), overall reliability can be enhanced by 40% through the gathering and applying of distributed intelligence from the smart grid.

The ability to measure and analyze data about electricity distribution and consumption on a more granular basis can provide significant value:

  • Smart meters provide consumption data which can enable improved peak load management and capacity planning.

  • Sensors on feeders can reveal responses to faults for system coordination that improves reliability.

  • Proactive maintenance of expensive transformers (and other heavy equipment used in the energy supply chain) can save millions of dollars by postponing replacement.

  • Using the same pool of accurate customer and infrastructure data to create meaningful energy efficiency and demand response programs will deliver a higher success rate in fulfilling the targets set by the utility itself, or by regulators.

How data integration improves asset management

Without data integration, utilities will miss an opportunity to use data optimally. This may lead to inefficient use of resources and errors may even occur since pockets of data may be missing.

Various options for integration based on optimizing asset management can also deliver on the goals of improved energy reliability and operational efficiency:

  • An integrated communications system that answers the needs of all applications and users will enhance efficiency and intelligence about asset utilization.

  • Operations are generally unaware of the health of system assets because that information is unavailable or not integrated with operational processes and technologies. By understanding asset health, operators can reduce loading and stress on ageing assets and schedule maintenance before failure occurs.

  • Power quality diagnoses can be difficult and time-consuming. This is because the installation of temporary instrumentation to trend suspected parameters is often needed. Adding sensors on the distribution system will help to identify where power quality and reliability issues exist. Incorporating that data into asset management processes can rectify this issue, thereby improving reliability and reducing potential problems.

  • Customer service representatives (CSRs) often don’t have access to operations or engineering processes and are therefore unable to answer customer’s questions. This can be frustrating for both the representative and the customer.

An overall asset management program aims to optimize system assets and human resources. By integrating data from all departments, the utility will be in a better position to run its business more effectively, thus offering an improved level of service to its customers.