Utility companies' IT systems 'not prepared' for smart grid intelligence

Electricity companies’ IT systems are not yet ready to support smart grid intelligence, a survey has found.


Electricity companies’ IT systems are not yet ready to support smart grid intelligence, a survey has found.

Oracle Utilities surveyed 50 senior executive from electricity companies across Europe, Middle East and Africa on their progress in implementing smart grid infrastructures. For its ‘EMEA Smart Grid Rollout’ survey, Oracle Utilities wanted to find out if electricity companies were fully exploiting the benefits of the intelligent networks.

“Exploring business and intelligence capabilities goes way beyond putting in place the right systems with the right scale. It’s moving from a more batch to real-time-oriented data and energy system. We now have the option to have better visibility on more end points,” said Bastian Fischer, VP and general manager of Oracle Utilities, EMEA.

The survey, however, found that only 14 percent of companies had fully integrated their meter data management systems with energy sourcing, and just 18 percent with forecasting services and energy supply contract pricing and rate design.

According to Oracle Utilities this means that electricity companies are possibly not taking advantage of the opportunities to offer new, competitive products and services to customers, and better manage their energy sources to comply with carbon reduction mandates.

 “Utilities have two main objectives. The first is to allow customers much more active choice in their energy consumption. The second dimension is to help utilities optimise and increase their efficiency and their network efficiency. For example, to allow for feeding in renewable sources, and to allow companies to monitor their networks to identify overloads or outages.

“For example, if you have renewable sources of energy [such as wind power], those sources are intermittent and much more distributed. We need to have almost real-time information about which windmill is producing, and then we have to reduce the fossil generation [where renewable energy is feeding in] to reduce the CO2 emissions,” Fischer explained.

However, the survey found that the majority of utility companies have made some progress in planning for these opportunities.

Ninety percent said they are looking at improving service reliability, while 84 percent said they were planning to optimise operational efficiency of field operations. Furthermore, 66 percent said they were planning to support increased levels of renewable energy, while 60 percent were planning to use the smart meter intelligence to optimise existing customer centric business processes.

In spite of these plans, the companies still had some concerns that their IT systems would not be able to handle the demands of the Smart Grid. For instance, 68 percent believed that ensuring their IT would be able to support agile transformation over the next five to 10 years would be a significant or challenge, while 56 percent were worried about their existing IT applications not being able to scale to their needs.

“In terms of IT infrastructures and application architecture, we are really looking to have an open platform that allows very diverse sources of information to link into it, for example, different meter technology, or network control technologies,” said Fischer.

He added: “But also needed is a platform that allows information to be linked into an end-to-end process – for example, to link with accounting, analytics and CRM systems. Those systems need to be able to cope with the data. “

To this end, 42 percent of the respondents said they had fully integrated their meter data management systems with customer care and billing, 50 percent with self service applications and 36 percent with asset management. Thirty-two percent have also fully integrated network management with their meter data management system.

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