For more than a decade, smart meters have been rolled out everywhere across the United States. But despite many new benefits for both utilities and customers, there is still work to be done to realize the smart grid using smart meters. Let us explain.
To fully explain what a fully-realized smart grid is, we first need to define some terms – namely ‘smart meter’ and ‘smart grid’.
What is a smart meter?
The electric meters of the past were only able to measure electricity usage. Smart meters have the ability to provide the utility with robust usage data, power data, and more, in near real time.
What is a smart grid?
SmartGrid.gov says the smart grid concept “represents an unprecedented opportunity to move the energy industry into a new era of reliability, availability, and efficiency that will contribute to our economic and environmental health.”
What an awesome and audacious goal. It is a goal that is achieved through data and software both at the edge and at the organizational core.
Still, just because a utility has deployed smart meters does not mean they have achieved a “smart grid.” There is a difference between data acquired and data well-used. This lives at the core of the current state of AMI value realization in the United States, a state which the DOE characterizes as “leaving value on the table”. Let’s get into what it takes to leverage your current AMI investment to advance towards a smarter grid and a smarter utility.
The Mountain of Underutilized AMI Data
Smart meters are currently creating mountains of useful data each day, containing relevant events and readings. While that data is certainly used for revenue billing and often used for general reporting and nightly anomaly analysis, the end-state often ends there. What we do not see is near real-time connectivity and harmony between the meter data and the business processes of the utility. To achieve the smart grid definition of “more efficient”, “reduced costs”, “quicker”, and “improved”, this connective tissue between the AMI data stream and the utility’s business processes must be created.
Step 1: Taming the AMI Data Stream
To date, the technical cost and complexity of processing a high-volume, high-velocity stream of data have served as a significant limiting factor for utilities. Compounding this, most utilities are reliant upon modest internal IT bandwidth to apply to this level of data processing challenge. Most utilities’ internal IT departments have done something with the AMI data through nightly queries and the use of Excel, but this quickly runs into the scalability constraints of on-premise client-server technologies. Incumbent software vendors, also reliant upon client-server architectures, have thus far not concluded their customers’ AMI rollouts with robust solutions for binding the AMI data stream with the organization’s business processes.
The good news is there are technology solutions that can process this data in a useful and affordable manner at scale: Cloud and cloud-native SaaS.
Enter Trynzic. As a relatively young company, Trynzic wrote its first line of software code in pursuit of a cloud-native, serverless (PaaS) architecture on Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. This is a big win for the utility industry. Simply stated, it means that the high-volume, high-velocity AMI data stream can (finally) be tamed, in an affordable way, without the need to write custom software.
Step 2: Business Process Enrichment
With your AMI data now ready to be well-used in near real-time, next it is time to connect this data asset to the utility’s business processes. This essentially represents a convergence between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT).
This will take an innovation mindset on the part of the utility. It requires an openness to realizing the benefits to members, customers, and employees, albeit with some investment into change. This change is sometimes characterized as the transformation from the “run-to-fail” business model to a model of “sense-and-respond”. This means that the people and processes of the organization will, in the future, be immediately aware of issues, able to more accurately diagnose issues, and able to act much more quickly to issues.
To set the context for solutions that enable business process enrichment, utilities should be thinking about line-of-business data convergence, workflow solutions, system-of-system orchestration, and single-pane-of-glass user experiences.
The end result of a fully realized smart grid is true digital transformation beginning with real-time observability at the grid edge. This real-time observability will soon no longer be optional.
A fully realized smart grid is a transformation initiative, but it need not be daunting. Transformation means people are empowered to participate in business processes enriched with the near real-time AMI data stream. That empowerment then spurs further innovation.
If your distribution utility is looking to turn your network of smart meters into a smart grid, talk to the experts at Trynzic today. We’ll be happy to show you how with a personalized demo.