Smart Grid Data Still Untapped

Monday, July 16, 2012 @ 04:07 PM gHale

Data collection from North American utilities is way off the chart, but the next big quest is to find out what to do with it.

Utility data collection from smart meters is up 18,000 percent, according to a survey from Oracle. The survey of 151 North American utility executives revealed a disconnect between data collection and putting that data to use.

For instance, while 78 percent of respondents said their utilities were collecting outage detection data from their smart meters, only 59 percent were actually using it for business processes and decision-making as of April 2012, when they conducted the survey.

Similar gaps were in voltage data (73 percent collecting it vs. 57 percent using it), tamper detection data (63 percent collecting it vs. 47 percent using it), and diagnostic data (56 percent collecting it and only 33 percent using it).

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The results underscore the varied levels of advancement in the North American Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) market. About 22 percent of respondents deployed smart meters to fewer than one-quarter of their customers, for example — a category that could include utilities that haven’t gone past the pilot project phase. But 65 percent of respondents have rolled out smart meters to three-quarters or more of their customers.

Generally, the more advanced the deployment, the farther along utilities have actually put the data they collected to use, said Linda Jackman, group vice president for Oracle’s utilities global business unit. That means some of the gap between collecting and using data could be utilities that just haven’t had the time to get to it yet.

Still, there’s plenty of room for improvement in smart meter data management, according to the survey. One finding shows the low number of utilities that have implemented meter data management software to handle their smart meters. Only 46 percent of respondents said their utilities have Meter Data Management (MDM) in place.

Jackman said those that don’t have an MDM are probably either dropping their data straight into Excel files — something an early-stage pilot project might do — or using their existing customer information system (CIS) billing systems.

That’s OK for billing, but not too much use for putting smart meter data to work for such things as outage detection, power quality sensing, conservation voltage reduction and other grid operations features, she said. Indeed, about 70 percent of utilities with an MDM in place reported themselves well-prepared to manage the smart meter data challenge, versus 51 percent without MDM that said they were well-prepared.

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