Data Management and Smart Grids Go Hand in Hand

Meter data management solutions are evolving into smart grid platforms.
Published: Tue 02 Sep 2014

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Europe’s meter data management (MDM) market is about to see some serious growth in the near future. Utilities are driving this growth as they search for appropriate solutions to manage and utilise the rising volume and variety of data which is being created by widespread smart meter installation. [Engerati-Beyond Meter Data Management: entering the era of big data in Utilities]

Data management and analytics are major focus points

Utilities are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of high-volume data management and data pattern analytics. This trend is global as utilities turn to data analysis as a base for planning, process administration and strategic decision-making. [Engerati-The Energy Industry Sees Value in Data Analytics.]

This realization will make MDM a critical investment category for the deployment of smart meters. [Engerati-The Smart City: The Smart Grid is the Backbone, Data Analytics are the Brain]

While some serious investments are being made in the MDM market, Frost & Sullivan reports that the pace of smart meter implementation differs from country to country. The report also shows that most European countries are running pilots while others are preparing for mass rollouts.

Initially, demand for MDM solutions will come from large distribution system operators with many mid-size companies following suit.

"Although many utilities still fail to consider smart metering as a software project, the number of those that demonstrate strong interest in energy loss reduction and asset management is on the increase," said Frost & Sullivan Information and Communication Technologies Research Analyst Ewa Tajer. "Consequently, MDM solutions will evolve into smart grid platforms."

Utilities should embrace innovation

What may hamper the implementation of additional MDM functionalities is utilities' approach to innovation. Due to a lack of ICT experience, utilities are focusing on potential risks and their focus in mainly on the basic functionalities related to data acquisition, meter management, and simple consumption information. This approach may prevent many of them from ever fully capitalizing on the potential of MDM.

In the past, the energy sector has been highly conservative when it came to adopting new forms of IT but now, utilities are recognizing the value in data analytics technology. Principal analyst Aapo Markkanen from ABI Research explains, “Greater shareholder pressure is pushing many energy groups to improve their returns after having it easy in the past. In such a highly asset-intensive field, huge cost savings are possible by making the operations more driven by data. Analytics allow the early movers to gain a critical competitive advantage over laggards, in a field where competing by the end product is seldom an option.”

It is therefore critical that utilities find a balance between cost and functionality. The MDM vendors’ priority is to enable future enhancements. "Utilities will develop their IT environment step by step, adding new functionalities in the course of time," added Tajer. "Therefore, vendors expand their portfolio with analytics hoping for an increase in profits. Existing participants are building up their capabilities either by organic growth or acquisitions. New entities are entering the market by expanding their portfolios or trying to tap opportunities by entering into partnerships with MDM providers."