Utilities around the world are starting to realize the effectiveness of the smart grid as it serves to enhance three major business functions: power delivery, asset management and consumer experience. However, the very thing that makes an energy grid smart-its wealth of data-poses major challenges for utilities.
This is where data management comes in to play.
Meter Data Management (MDM) creates a pathway for the transmission of data between multiple applications and departments that need it. It is also able to assimilate and consolidate data from multiple meter types and can reduce the cost of building and maintaining application interfaces. MDM also stores data flows which cannot be regulated, such as the flood of simultaneous messages received from tens of thousands of meters during a major power outage. Data management should be able to extract clear, consistent and coherent information that drives targeted benefits for the utility. In addition, it should simplify infrastructure costs needed to collect and process the data which will deliver these benefits. A key characteristic for managing, controlling and optimizing the smart grid is ensuring that the data is efficiently regulated, immediately measurable and observable. This is particularly relevant for utilities, as power distribution grids have, in the past, lacked detailed observability, writes Information Management.
MDM strategies are advancing and utilities influence them through their smart grid visions, goals and objectives, writes Green Tech Media. These factors will dictate business needs, defining the types of data which needs to be collected, where it needs to be distributed, and the format it needs to be in to make it usable. An organization with a comprehensible MDM platform strategy will find itself equipped to take advantage of its smart grid capabilities and make informed technology choices in the future
But who lays claim to this data and the management thereof?
Oracle explains that in traditional, regulated utility models, utilities generally own meter data and are able to utilize it as long as it is approved by regulators. Utilities are also expected to defend individual rights of privacy.
It is common, however, for deregulating jurisdictions to grant meter data ownership to customers, explains Oracle. Customers then give their chosen retailer or supplier access to their data in return for receiving power supply. In some jurisdictions, advocates say that customers should have the right to restrict access to their data. Jurisdictions, moving forward with Smart Metering under both regulated and deregulated market conditions, resolve the issue by stipulating conditions under which the various entities within the utility industry may access and use customer data. However, some view customer ownership as a barrier to the effective use of Smart Metering data.
According to Oracle, MDM is, for most utilities, a new type of application as it “shatters the typical utility IT model in which each department ‘owns’ its own set of applications.” MDM forces utility departments to work together as it operates as if every department is its “owner.”Guerry Waters, Vice President, Industry Strategy and Marketing, explains that MDM helps to break down utility departmental barriers and facilitate cross-organizational business processes. In order for MDM to cater for all departments equally efficiently, the various stakeholders need to share data and agree to application configurations that will serve all needs optimally. The process of information sharing is grabbing the attention of departmental heads as they now have access to knowledge and tools to initiate better program administration. Utilities are now able to rethink their business systems without the restriction of existing departmental boundaries. MDM is therefore owned cooperatively among departments rather than individually and is the “missing link” to accommodate the smooth flow of business processes in the organization. Oracle describes MDM as “the first major utility silo-breaking application.”