Back in the mid-2000s, many of us heard the term smart grid for the first time. Ones reaction to this term depended on ones point of view. Many from the metering world had been playing in the fixed network world for quite some time and questioned what this new smart thing was all about. Utility customer organization leaders wondered if this was the day that they would finally have that nirvana-like robust pipeline to the consumer to offer a suite of new services. Many of us coming from the operations side of the utility world thought Huh? SCADA on steroids?
It turned out that was nobody was completely wrong, and that everybody across these utility organizations and departments had much to gain. In fact, the real value was not in this new intelligent infrastructure itself, but in its product: data and the myriad of new ways to manage and manipulate this data into improvedand in some cases predictiveoperations across the utility enterprise.
In its short three year history, the Utility Analytics Institute, a division of Energy Central, has had front row seats to watching a 100-year-old industry respond to a fast-moving technology and business paradigm shift that was not only fundamentally changing utility operations, but global business, as well, from mass customization of consumer products to online commerce to major league sports, to name a few. The Institute staff has been in the fortunate position to engage in and report much of these developments across our editorial efforts, research reports, and formal and informal face-to-face discussions with Institute members and thought leaders from across the industry, so lets take a moment to see where the Institute and this market are today.
The Institute was launched in the summer of 2011, in what was really the logical extension of much of the work that was done at Sierra Energy Group, Energy Centrals research and analysis division, since 2005. An initial set of approximately 100 interviews during the Institutes first three monthswith just about anybody in the industry that was touching this new analytics thingbrought clarity to the direction of analytics in the utility industry, including an observation that there are three mostly sequential main steps that utilities are pushing through on the path to transforming data into actionable analytics:
Data management: It is not as simple as more data equals more servers.
Reporting & BI: From manually generated reports to sophisticated executive dashboards, this answers the what happened? questions, and
Predictive operations: applying the lessons learned from what happened? predictively.
And as the industry has moved forward towards and into the world of predictive analytics, the Institute has been there every step of the way, serving the growing community of utility analytics professionals and providing research-based content in support of the community. The following is a glimpse into Institute and member activities that are leading the movement towards predictive utility operations.
First and foremost are the activities of Institute members. The Institute is fortunate to have the support of nearly 50 corporate members from both utilities and solution providers. With nearly 30 utilities on board, utility members are leading Institute working groups that are developing best practices and use cases in key application and interest areas including AMI/OMS integration, asset optimization, data quality and integration, and customer engagement and social media. Executives from member utilities are also providing strategic guidance via the Institutes Executive Advisory Council. The Working Groups and EAC each meet face-to-face multiple times each year in addition to periodic conference calls.
Among the utility membership it should be noted that the Institute has recently added international membership to its ranks with China Light & Power, Bermuda Electric and Hydro Quebec joining leading U.S. utilities such as Southern Company, Duke Energy, PG&E, SDG&E and many others. The utility members are joined by leading solution and service providers ranging from leading global corporations like Oracle Utilities, Accenture, SAS and IBM to many other solution providers serving numerous analytics requirements and market niches.
Both utility and solution provider members participate in various Institute content development activities. These include a weekly newsletter that reaches 25,000 readers (accessible at www.utilityanalytics.com), an annual series of research reports and online content and databases accessible via the members online platform.
Finally, the Institute has developed a series of events that have quickly become recognized as the leading forums for utility analytics professionals to engage, learn and network with colleagues. This includes the more strategically focused Utility Analytics Summit (www.utilityanalyticssummit.com) every spring and the larger, more broadly focused Utility Analytics Week (www.utilityanalyticsweek.com) every fall. These live events are complemented with quarterly webcasts featuring utility and solution providers offering insights on the leading analytics challenges and issues of the day.
The utility analytics market has come a long way in a very short period of time, and the Utility Analytics Institute has been right there, tracking and sometimes leading the many dynamics and changes in this space. Perhaps Mark Johnson, a vice president and co-founder of the Institutes parent company, Energy Central, summed it up best: A lot of us have been around the utility industry for a long time myself included and after decades of incremental change, the last few years have been an exciting ride! It has been heartening to see so many industry professionals embrace the changes in technology and the business that are inherent with leveraging data and analytics. We greatly; appreciate the support of our members and look forward to what the future of analytics brings.
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