How Effective are the Utility’s Asset Management Platforms?

Utilities need to assess their entire asset portfolio by taking a holistic point of view and drawing on sound asset management platforms.
Published: Thu 06 Mar 2014

Utilities own millions of distribution grid assets. It is therefore crucial that they know which ones are about to collapse. They also need to verify the cost of the failure, as well as how potentially dangerous it will be. There are so many asset maintenance, replacement and procurement strategies available to the utility but it’s up to the utility to opt for the best solution for today, as well as for the future.

In addition, utilities must be able to manage daily maintenance and operations plans in a way that takes new smart-grid-enabled data flows into account.

Data analytics is already assisting the utility to manage its generation and transmission assets effectively. With the development and growth of smart grid endpoints in the distribution grid, these data platforms are now starting to reach the edges of the grid.


A good example of this is the partnership formed between grid giant General Electric and Meridium, the developer of an asset analytics software suite, Asset Performance Management. General Electric aims to use this software to enhance its ability to identify equipment failures before they occur and to correct operating conditions that can cause long-term issues.

System-wide asset analytics platform

Of course there are many other grid equipment vendors that offer monitoring and alerting systems to identify system failures before they occur. However, it is important to note that there is a big difference between these types of vendor-specific or point-solution type asset analytics products. Utilities need to assess their entire asset portfolio by taking a holistic point of view. This involves the collaboration of multiple utility business units like workforce management, grid operations, procurement and logistics, and finance and regulatory arms. Since a distribution system has so many integrated parts, knowing the location and operational configuration context of the system is just as crucial as knowing the details of particular assets. A system-wide platform should be able to predict failures a lot quicker. The platform should also be able to forecast failures which may occur within a six to 12 month period. This will assist utilities when they approach the regulator for investments to upgrade system components.

According to Meridium director of partner solutions, John Renick, an effective asset strategy should move customers from a reactive state to a proactive state.

Analytics-based asset planning pays off

According to GTM Research smart grid analyst Ben Kellison, analytics-based asset planning is where enterprise-wide investments can really pay off.

All this asset data can go a long way in helping the utility to justify grid-edge investments and plan for future challenges like mega storms such as Hurricane Sandy and the disruptive influence of solar PV and other customer-owned distributed energy resources on the grid.

This obviously creates major opportunities for utilities and should encourage more investment in utility asset analytics.

The potential cost savings and revenue improvements to come from better asset management could make it a major portion of overall utility spending on data analytics, which GTM Research has predicted will be a cumulative US$20 billion market between 2013 and 2020.

The Value of Grid Analytics

In the past, distribution grid assets have lacked the instrumentation and data collection systems required for deep analytics. Because of this, utilities were running the assets until they failed and then replaced them.

But this is about to change as the grid edge becomes more instrumented, and the costs of “run-to-failure” become too expensive.

But, as assets become smarter, they provide more data. This data influx can become overwhelming so it’s crucial that a predictive analytics solution be implemented. Without this, the investment in smart grid assets will be wasted. This analysis is essential for utilities when having to submit cost-benefit analyses of smart grid deployments or new distribution grid planning that require new technologies.

Today’s utility enterprise asset management (EAM) platforms seem to lack the ability to integrate all the data flowing from these new smart devices. This places pressure on the EAM vendors to enhance the technology with data management and analytics capabilities.

The potential cost savings and revenue improvements to come from better asset management could make it a major portion of overall utility spending on data analytics, which GTM Research has predicted will be a cumulative US$20 billion market between 2013 and 2020.