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Fall 2010

CenterPoint Energy:

Making the

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FALL 2010

The magazine for smart metering and innovative technologies.

Joel Hoiland, CAE Chief Executive Officer jhoiland@utilimetrics.org Karen Cioni Events Director kcioni@utilimetrics.org

CONTENTS

Joel Mendes Education & Marketing Director jmendes@utilimetrics.org Janice Greenberg, MPA Communications Director jgreenberg@utilimetrics.org Ryan Moran Membership Sales Director rmoran@utilimetrics.org Rande LaTour Events Coordinator rlatour@utilimetrics.org Donna Stevens Membership Coordinator dstevens@utilimetrics.org Debby Scheck Education Coordinator dscheck@utilimetrics.org Walt Shumate Regulatory Counsel wshumate@utilimetrics.org John Johnson Contributing Writer jjohnson@utilimetrics.org For information about editorial contributions in Utilimetrics Quarterly, please contact Janice Greenberg at (847) 227-0478 or jgreenberg@utilimetrics.org.

FEATURES 8

Publisher Kathleen Gardner Project Manager Drew Jasinski Marketing Holly Straut Bookleader Pam Blasetti Sales Erik Henson, Susan Maracle, Jason Ruppert, Jamie Williams, Jason Zawada Editorial Michael Senecal Design Catharine Snell Advertising Art Elaine Connell

EV Overload? As two new models of electric cars make their debut later this year, utilities are working fast to assure that the prolonged use of charging stations doesn’t overwhelm the electric grid.

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Smart Metering Initiative at Austin Energy A conversation with Chief Operating Officer and Autovation Opening General Session speaker Cheryl Mele.

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Smart Grid Operational Services Utility mobile IT adoption.

©2010 Naylor, LLC. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher. For information on advertising opportunities in Utilimetrics Quarterly, please contact Pam Blasetti at (800) 369-6220 or pblasetti@naylor.com.

Charged Up CenterPoint Energy’s stimulus award resulted in job creation, technology innovation and the foundation for an advanced intelligent grid.

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IN EVERY ISSUE 7

Executive Message JOEL HOILAND Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of Utilimetrics Quarterly!

PUBLISHED AUGUST 2010/UIA-Q0310/9863

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Index of Advertisers Advertisers and Websites

http://utilimetrics.wordpress.com/

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http://twitter.com/Utilimetrics

UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

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Smart Renewables for a Smart Grid: Integrating energy technologies.

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EXECUTIVE MESSAGE

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Chairman of the Board Rick Stevens Hydro One Chair-Elect Nan Williams Wisconsin Public Service Corporation

Welcome to the Fall 2010 issue of Utilimetrics Quarterly

Treasurer Bob Sitkauskas DTE Energy Chief Executive Officer Joel Hoiland Immediate Past Chairman Bernie Bujnowski BJB Consulting Vice Chairman David R. Scott R.W. Beck/SAIC Vice Chairman Clark Pierce Landis+Gyr DIRECTORS Bruce Agid Pacific Gas and Electric Company Bruce Carpenter Portland General Electric Jim Cherrie Southern California Edison Michael Godorov PPL Utilities Charles W. Kiely DC Water & Sewer Utility Christie Miree, P.E. Georgia Power Co. Kirby Parr PES Energize Debbie Rachlis Aclara an ESCO Technologies Company Ted Reguly San Diego Gas & Electric Derl W. Rhoades Alabama Power Co Walter Ross PSE&G R. Bryan Seal, P.E. SmartSynch James F. Sheppard CenterPoint Energy Bruce Sisson Wellington Energy George Uram Sensus John O. Wambaugh UISOL Utility Integration Solutions, Inc.

Joel Hoiland, Utilimetrics Chief Executive Officer

IN ADDITION TO being mailed to all of our members and available to the general public digitally, this issue of Utilimetrics Quarterly is being distributed to all Autovation attendees. As we went to press, Autovation registrations were ahead of previous years, and we are certain this will be one of our best-attended conferences. Thanks to everyone on the Program and Education committees for bringing exceptional education, networking and innovative technology to Autovation 2010. As a result of survey responses, email and phone suggestions and other input, we have added several new highlights to Autovation and services to our members. I’ll begin with Autovation. If you are in Austin, your Final Program indicates new

programs and activities, including: • Hands-on workshops • Technical tour of Austin Energy • Autovation reunion and roast • Raffle to win free registration and five night stay at Autovation 2011 in Washington, DC Utilimetrics is launching an online Smart Utility Marketplace that helps utility professionals find the products and services they need to design and advance operations. Utilimetrics members receive free basic listings. Members, Autovation exhibitors and sponsors are noted in the guide. News Link, the Utilimetrics weekly newsletter, is now accepting advertising. News Link distribution has expanded significantly the past few months. The Utilimetrics website moved to a new server that better allows staff to update and manage content. We also plan to make the website more user friendly for members and other visitors. If you are a Utilimetrics member, you will receive your membership renewal notice for 2011 in the next several

weeks. If you are not yet a member, I encourage you to join today. Our membership dues are based on a calendar year. Join now and your dues will be paid through 2011. A few of our member benefits include: • Discounts on Autovation registration and exhibit booth space • Subscription to News Link, the Public Policy Report and Utilimetrics Quarterly • Free job postings on the Utilimetrics Career Board • Free listing in the Smart Utility Marketplace (vendors and consultants) • Opportunities to connect and network with utility colleagues from around the world It’s been a year since Utilimetrics transitioned from being managed by an association management company to having its own office and full-time staff. We’re very proud of the increased value we’ve delivered to our members and look forward to continuing to provide exceptional educational programming and member benefits. Most of all, we thank you for making Utilimetrics the premier utility technology association.

Rob Wilhite KEMA Greg Williams, P.E. Appalachian Electric Cooperative

http://utilimetrics.wordpress.com/

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UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

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Charged Up By John R. Johnson

Houston-based CenterPoint Energy has accomplished what the stimulus program was intended to achieve. 8

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UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010


CenterPoint Energy’s stimulus award resulted in job creation, technology innovation and the foundation for an advanced intelligent grid THERE HAS BEEN much debate about whether or not the billions in stimulus funds doled out to the utility sector has served its actual purpose—to save and create jobs and stimulate the economy. Many utilities have reported just a handful of new jobs even with their stimulus funding, while others have reported no job gains at all. Houstonbased CenterPoint Energy on the other hand has accomplished what the program was intended to achieve—the utility has hired close to 300 employees as a direct result of the $200 million stimulus award it received from the Department of Energy late last year. Overall, the company’s efforts to roll out 2.2 million smart meters and install an intelligent grid through part of its service territory has resulted in 587 new jobs at the utility. “This is a $639 million project and that involves a lot of people and a lot of resources,” says Jeff Myerson, director of advanced metering system/intelligent grid integration for CenterPoint Energy. “So yes, it’s absolutely resulted in job growth.” The stimulus award has allowed CenterPoint Energy to greatly accelerate its smart meter rollout. Prior to receiving the grant, the utility expected to complete its deployment throughout metropolitan Houston by mid-2014. By applying $150 million of its $200 million stimulus award to the smart meter initiative, CenterPoint Energy has moved up that schedule by two years. The firm now expects to have all 2.2 million meters rolled out by mid 2012. The utility increased its deployment to 60,000 meters per month in July, and expected

to be at 82,000 meters a month by the end of August, a level it will remain at until the project is complete. That acceleration has created jobs in a number of categories, half of them in the construction and electrical fields, as well as other trades. Another one-third of the new positions are technology-based like engineering and computer operations. The rest of the new jobs are for business functions like analysts, scheduling and planning, and management. “We’re installing 2.2 million meters,” says Myerson. “Vendors need to build those meters and we have communications infrastructure that has to be built and installed. The computer systems have to be written, installed, built out and commissioned. There are a lot of people involved in this project.” In accordance with CenterPoint Energy’s agreement with the DOE, the utility sends the federal agency a bill each month based on the costs it incurs. At the end of June, CenterPoint Energy had received $33 million in stimulus payments from the DOE—a little over 15 percent of its full stimulus award. The full impact of the meter rollout is still yet to be seen at the customer level. Meters are set to record 15-minute interval data and then a register reading at midnight every day, resulting in 97 data points of information that are saved every day. Meters are interrogated three times a day, and that information is stored in the utility’s meter data management system. There is tremendous potential for customers to use that data by registering with Smart Meter Texas, a web portal designed to feed usage information to customers of Texas-based utilities CenterPoint Energy, Oncor and AEP. Customers can access the web portal after their meters have been in place and tested for 60 days. However, the web portal is having trouble gaining customer acceptance. To date, 1.3 million meters are accessible via the portal, 23 percent of which belong to CenterPoint Energy customers. However, only 3,000 residential users have set up accounts, meaning only a miniscule number of customers are taking advantage of usage information designed to increase conservation efforts. UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

9


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“The adoption rate has been pretty slow, primarily because Smart Meter Texas has not been advertising the portal much,” says Myerson. “Right now it’s all word of mouth.” CenterPoint Energy’s stimulus award is also speeding up investment in its intelligent smart grid. While the majority of the grant went to the smart meter rollout, $50 million from the DOE (coupled with another $50 million in capital spending by CenterPoint Energy) is being used to initiate an intelligent grid deployment and that involves infrastructure like line devices and remote terminal units on power lines, units within substations and back office systems that will allow the utility to monitor and control the distribution grid within a certain geographic area. That $100 million investment will only cover about onequarter of CenterPoint Energy’s service area, specifically the area inside of the interstate highway loop that circles Houston. Myerson says that the utility is in the process of selecting an advanced distribution management system vendor. “Once we make that selection we’ll go through the process of getting all our requirements detailed and get the software configured and deployed, which is a huge component of the system,” he says. “We’re also going through the process of testing and selecting devices to be deployed in the field and at the substations.” By the end of the year, Myerson expects to have 22 circuits with some functionality on them, and ultimately about 650 circuits by the end of 2012.

One of the intelligent grid’s major benefits will be allowing CenterPoint Energy to know the status of its systems without customer input. One of the intelligent grid’s major benefits will be allowing CenterPoint Energy to know the status of its systems without customer input. Today, the utility relies on customer calls to alert it to when lights go out at certain locations. “If a major event happens at a substation, our system picks that up and we know instantly,” he says. “But today if a line fuse blows open due to a tree falling, we don’t know unless customers call and tell us. Going forward, our meters will tell us when the power has gone out.” CenterPoint Energy is collecting those notifications now, but has yet to build the back office system to utilize them. While smart meters are an integral part of that function, the intelligent grid will further enhance the ability to sense where a fault occurred on a line, and will provide CenterPoint Energy with the ability to isolate that fault, eliminating the need to drive into the field to isolate damaged lines. “That’s where the opportunity lies,” says Myerson. “What we achieve is a shortened or reduced SAIDI—or system average interruption duration index. We’re looking to reduce our SAIDI which again benefits the customer.” In addition, the utility will be able to get more precise information about system load at a much more granular level. Rather than examining load on an overall circuit, Myerson says they will be able to get load information on a specific branch


of a circuit all the way down to the individual transformer level. Doing so allows CenterPoint Energy to determine what the real load is on a transformer as opposed to what the design capacity or the worst case scenario load is. “The opportunity there is to optimize our assets and utilize them to the most potential or maybe extend them for a longer period of time if we know they have capacity.” Myerson acknowledges that both projects would have been slowed without the cash infusion from the DOE. “This was certainly a direction that strategically we’ve been headed in,” says Myerson. “It just would have occurred at a slower pace. We recognize that the initial implementation of smart meters is a starting point for an intelligent grid, but it would not have gone nearly this quickly if we did not have the funding from the smart grid investment grant.”

John R. Johnson is a contributing writer for Utilimetrics. Contact John @ jjohnson@utilimetrics.org.

A Smart Grid Master Craftsman Kevin Cornish – Expert wood worker, collector of obscure mystery novels, avid gardener and cook, professional engineer, distinguished smart grid technologist and strategy advisor

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Whether crafting beautifully detailed furniture and cabinetry, or a world-class smart grid, Kevin Cornish’s creations are always finely-finished and well put together. His 25 years of utility experience serve him well in building the industry’s most complex AMI, demand response and smart grid projects. He provides the vision, blueprint and tools that make the difference between the commonplace and an enduring work of art. Smart Grid – From Concept Through Completion

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Finding equilibrium between supply, demand, delivery and conservation—it’s an increasingly delicate balance to achieve. Until now. At Tucson Electric Power, we have a strategy to shift peak loads while helping our customers manage their energy consumption—all at a reasonable cost. Our answer—an advanced communications network from Itron. After all, the future won’t just invite smarter thinking about energy—it will demand it. We’re realizing a smarter future with Itron.


EV V

As two new models of electric cars make their debut later this year, utilities are working fast to assure that the prolonged use of charging stations doesn’t overwhelm the electric grid

IN THE WAKE of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many utility executives are preparing for an onslaught of electric cars that could begin to place unforeseen demands on the electric grid when two new models of electric cars debut this fall. The belief that the nation’s largest oil spill ever will guilt drivers into buying electric cars like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt is not lost on utility execs, many of whom are scrambling to address distribution infrastructure and other potential problem areas due to concerns that drivers will arrive home from work around the same time and begin charging their vehicles simultaneously. “It definitely has the potential to impact us—first in terms of loading, if not overloading UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

13


our distribution infrastructure and secondly as far as impacting our peak demand,” says Bruce Hamer, principal power engineer at Burbank Water & Power, Burbank, Calif. “Those are obviously mission critical issues that we need to resolve or address ahead of time or else bad things happen.” Indeed, some industry experts believe that a single 220V electric car charger plugged in during peak consumption hours could overload a transformer. The WINMEC Thought Leadership Forum, which is hosting an EV event on Sept. 28, says that if one-quarter of all vehicles were EVs today, the current infrastructure in the U.S. would have a difficult time supporting the charging of these vehicles. Therefore, according to the WINMEC website, substantial technological, infrastructure and behavioral changes

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UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

would be required to power electric vehicles in a scalable and efficient manner. The fear is that drivers will take their new energy efficient electric cars back and forth to work, then plug them into the electrical outlet in their garage to charge them when they get home. Such a scenario, with almost all of the electric cars being charged at once, might tax

is expected to take eight hours with a 220-volt line. It will also be capable of charging through a standard 120-volt outlet. “I think that energy prices, environmental awareness and a shift in generational buying habits will bring on higher demand for electric cars,” says Saul Zambrano, director, integrated

Some industry experts believe that a single 220V electric car charger plugged in during peak consumption hours could overload a transformer. transformers on the secondary drops and would likely require some upgrading to localized neighborhood transformers. The Nissan LEAF zero-emission, all-electric vehicle is capable of achieving 100 miles on a single charge. Charging of the advanced lithium-ion battery

demand-side management core products for Pacific Gas & Electric. “We know for a variety of reasons that these cars are going to cluster and when they cluster at the charging rates that they charge at, it’s going to present distribution issues for us. We know how to handle them but that’s


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In the event of a transformer failure, Collins says utilities are prepared. “People are worried about the transformer impact and that they will be overloaded. We have programs to monitor our transformers and replace them when extra demand is put on them. The good thing about transformers is that they are short lead time equipment. They can be replaced quickly.” Collins believes that EVs represent challenges similar to those that utilities have responded to over the years. “As electrification has gone through the decades, first you had electric kitchens and refrigerators that required more energy. Then you had flat screen TVs. We’ve had to respond to customer demands in usage in their homes and we see this as the next thing we have to do. If we have to replace a few transformers for electric vehicles we’ll work through the process to do that.” where the majority of the work will need to occur.” At press time Nissan had not released all the locations where the Leaf will be introduced, although San Diego is a major hub for the rollout of the 16,000 units that will be available in the U.S. General Motors has indicated that its trial markets for the Chevy Volt will include California, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Austin, Tex., and Connecticut. Zambrano expects to see both brands of electric cars hit his firm’s service territory by year-end, and is conducting research into predicted charging habits. As another California utility, Hamer also expects to see high adoption of EVs in Burbank Power & Water’s service territory. “We are developing strategies to address this and we’re hoping to be pro-active in promoting electric cars in our community,” says Hamer. “We’ll encourage them to come here but on terms that don’t adversely impact our energy system. Being in Southern California, one would expect a fairly big adoption rate. I think in general our society is becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of energy usage and the climate is improving for us to use energy wisely with smart grids and move away from petroleum-based products and reduce green house gas emissions. Electric 16

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vehicles are arguably an important part of that movement.” Aside from California, Connecticut is another important state in the EV movement. Connecticut officials have been planning for EVs for years, and recognize that consumer acceptance will depend largely on the experiences of those first EV buyers, and their ability to charge them seamlessly without creating power interruptions. “There is a lot of concern about how these cars are introduced,” says Watson Collins, manager of business development at Northeast Utilities. “How well these first units are received may shape the development of electric vehicles for a time to come. There has been a lot of effort here behind the scenes to try to anticipate issues and trends before they happen so that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.” Northeast Utilities has conducted numerous studies that show for every five percent penetration of electric vehicles, the volume on the electric system would increase by just one percent. “So looking at the number of vehicles expected in next 10 years, even if we’re up to 20 percent saturation, we really don’t see a big impact on the capability of the system to handle that,” says Collins.

The fear is that drivers will take their new energy efficient electric cars back and forth to work, then plug them into the electrical outlet in their garage to charge them when they get home. Zambrano says that aside from researching market adoption as to when and what type of cars are coming, utilities must consider their overall infrastructure, charging requirements, distribution planning, and regulatory planning as they prepare for the emergence of electric vehicles. “There is no universal answer, but we’re planning across all of those categories,” he says. “If these vehicles show up on your grid and you have no plan, well it’s no different than anything else … it’s not necessarily a nice dynamic. But if you have a utility that has pro-actively planned to address the introduction of those vehicles and they look at all those categories that I mentioned, then it should all be very manageable.”


Smart Metering I at Austin Energy

WITH AUTOVATION HEADQUARTERED in Austin this year, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the smart metering initiative at Austin Energy. The host utility for our conference, Austin Energy is the ninth largest public power utility in the nation, providing low cost and reliable power to the capitol city of Texas and metro area, with annual revenues over $1.3 billion servicing 400,000 premises representing around 43,000 businesses and one million consumers. Austin Energy’s generation portfolio includes nuclear, coal, gas, wind, solar, and biomass. Austin Energy Chief Operating

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Officer and Autovation Opening General Session speaker Cheryl Mele sat down with Utilimetrics to discuss smart grid and other issues. Where does Austin Energy stand when it comes to your smart meter rollout program? “We have recently deployed 100 percent automated meters across our service territory, and we are down to the last 1,600 meters of our 410,000 meters that are deployed. We are mostly dealing with meters now for our solar customers and a few others who have a higher level of need for us to coordinate very closely with them during deployment.


Initiative A conversation with Chief Operating Officer and Autovation Opening General Session speaker Cheryl Mele

“The next stage of this project involves automating and feeding that outage information back into our outage management system to heighten our awareness of customer problems without relying on them to make a phone call to us. So that’s an upcoming piece of the puzzle. We started off by getting all the meters out there, and decided to build in the customer value after that. We are also looking at meters as to their input into our distribution management system. So we are headed down that smart meter path, starting with meter deployment, building in a smart grid distribution management system.”

How will your customers use and benefit from the smart meter deployment going forward? “Certainly from the energy efficiency side of things, we recognize some of the purpose behind the meter deployment is providing information to customers to help engage them to be more conscious of energy use. So we’ll have to work toward getting that usage information back to the customers not just on a monthly bill, but get them somehow tied into getting daily information.” What frequency will they receive information at? Are you looking at real-time data? “We’re setting our sights initially on daily, and not the 15-minute intervals. We’re doing some

UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

19


piloting of shorter interval data but we are trying to get customers conscious of how they can change their usage day to day. “We’ve learned from customer focus groups that it’s important for our billing staff to respond to inquiries from customers about their bills. While call volume has not been reduced, we have been able to successfully educate customers on how to read and understand their bills.” So the last part of the smart meter rollout is to customers with solar homes and special requirements? “We’ve had a solar rebate program in place for the last three or four years. Customers who have those solar panels are much more aware than the average customer about what’s coming out of the panel and we provide the ability for them to really monitor that. They are more sensitive to energy conservation and because they don’t want to lose any of that information, it’s been beneficial to take that group by the hand and work with them on meter scheduling and make sure they don’t lose what they view as very informative data.”

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“We are headed down that smart meter path, starting with meter deployment, building in a smart grid distribution management system.” Talk about the Pecan Street Project. What are the immediate goals? “The Pecan Street Project is a community-wide collaboration to fully reinvent the energy delivery system. It’s more than a smart grid project. Pecan Street is an ambitious effort to empower customers and innovators to use the energy system in new ways while making energy cleaner, water usage more efficient and the economy stronger. “Pecan Street is going to be our first example of being able to take the creative energy of some of the talent from around Austin and really demonstrate that futuristic look on small scale here in the Austin Energy service territory. We will establish the City of Austin as America’s clean energy laboratory. We will design and implement an energy generation and management system that generates a power plant’s worth of power from clean sources within the city limits and delivers it over an advanced delivery system that

4/15/10 9:57:38 AM

allows for unprecedented customer energy management and conservation.” Being so close to the Gulf of Mexico, will the ongoing crisis there jump-start the movement into renewable energy? “It certainly is in Austin, Tex. Our goal at Austin Energy is to have a 35 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2020, so 35 percent of all energy delivered to our customers would be from renewable resources. Our goals are pretty high for what we want and what our community wants, and our local desires are to meet those goals. So whether policy comes out of what’s going on the Gulf or not, and if it is similar to what Austin Energy is locally making decisions on already, we can only hope.” Austin is very tied into the electric car movement. What does the future hold for EVs in Austin? “We are very active in the electric vehicle and transportation area and are trying to push that toward that future. GM made the announcement recently that Austin is one of the Volt [debut] cities and we’ll see some of the first product coming into the Austin marketplace. Of course, that product is limited, but they have made the determination that Austin is a great place for them to pilot their new vehicles.” What are the possible implications of plugging cars into the grid to recharge every night? Can the system handle it? “One of the things that the Pecan Street Project will study is the implications of charging stations onto our grid. We’re experimenting heavily with charging stations. Certainly what we don’t want is everybody plugging in at once to charge that battery so they can get from the office to home. We want to look at what are the best ways to work with manufacturers and consumers to make sure we actually don’t heighten the need for energy because of that conversion. We may consume more kilowatt hours but we don’t want to increase peak. That might be counterproductive to the cleaner environment that we want to support.”


Smart Grid

Operational Services Utility mobile IT adoption This is part 1 of a two-part article. Part 2 will appear in the winter 2011 issue of Utilimetrics Quarterly.

UTILITY COMPANIES HAVE taken great strides in employing the latest technology to manage their work forces, assets and operations. Many have invested significantly in enterprise asset management (EAM) and outage management software, scheduling tools, remote meter reading systems and proprietary communication networks. These tools have delivered marked improvements in productivity and the quality of many processes, empowering utilities to provide a consistent and reliable product. Yet many utility organizations are looking beyond improving back office operations and seeking other ways to get more done, collaborate better and further the efficiency of their day to day activities. Why? The reasons are many. Continuing deregulation has made the utilities industry more price competitive. The transmission and distribution infrastructure is aging and is in some instances well past its planned service life. The workforce is aging as well, and qualified people are increasingly scarce and more expensive to hire. Customers are demanding 100 percent availability, environmental awareness, accurate billing and quick fault resolution. Government and industry compliance regulations are becoming stricter. All of this, and more, is business as usual for utilities management. To meet these challenges and be better prepared for the unexpected, companies are increasingly adopting mobile solutions as a way to further control costs, improve productivity and make better decisions throughout their organizations. This report briefly reviews the state of mobile adoption among utilities and 22

UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

outlines several high-return mobilization areas for managers to consider. It further discusses criteria for selection of mobile solutions and provides some leading practices for their implementation within the utility industry.

Why now? Electric utilities are enabling or deploying mobile technology because of the technology’s two fundamental capabilities to: • Reduce cycle time. Mobile technology allows such repetitive and/or time consuming activities as inspections, repairs, meter readings and installation of equipment to be completed more efficiently. This reduction in process cycle time delivers significant benefits in customer satisfaction, cost reduction and efficiency. • Facilitate the exchange of information. Mobile technology is extremely beneficial to organizations whose data either resides outside of the enterprise or is needed and inaccessible in the field. This bilateral flow of information greatly improves the decision making ability of both field employees and managers back at the office. As we will discuss later in this report, mobile technology finds many uses in the utility industry, and most of them belong in the above categories. When we talk about adoption of mobile technology by utilities, it is important to note that this process is happening in two distinct phases. The industry was rather quick to adopt communications and remote office solutions such as wireless email, mainly because they were widely available and delivered a clear set of benefits. The second

By Alon Gat Capgemini Smart Energy Services

phase is the adoption of mobile applications designed specifically for the utilities industry. These can bring exponentially larger benefits than general use horizontal tools, and they are quickly gaining acceptance because of changes in the external environment. First, the utilities industry is facing the dual challenge of aging infrastructure and aging workforce. Over the past decade, most investment was directed toward constructing new facilities to meet demand, rather than to refurbishing existing equipment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 70 percent of the nation’s transmission lines and power transformers are now 25 years or older, and 60 percent of circuit breakers are more than 30 years old. This makes preventative maintenance a top priority and creates tight cost pressures for asset management operations. By the same token, some industry surveys report that less than 10 percent of utility workers are under the age of 35, and that most utilities will lose an average of 20 percent of their staffs over the next five years, and some will lose up to 40 percent. This trend exacerbates the need to get more done with fewer people, cut costs, transfer knowledge and standardize processes. Second, at the infrastructure level, is the emergence of mobile platforms


peripherals that employees needed in the field. Current generation rugged devices are truly multi-purpose tools that can incorporate location-based information, bar-coding and RFID, voice applications, signature capture, imaging, printing and pairing with calibration tools in a small, lightweight device that has an outdoor readable screen and can be worn on a belt. The fourth factor is the improvement of mobile application security, which had previously posed a barrier. Finally, a drastic shift has occurred in how companies use mobile technology. Previously, the main use of mobile applications has been

es

that can interface with several back-end systems simultaneously and cost effectively deliver intuitive workflow solutions. Third is the improvement of mobile device technology. Today’s handheld mobile units are vastly superior to older devices, which lacked in battery power, memory, processing capacity and support for the multiple networks and

to get the information “out” into the hands of field personnel. Increasingly, however, companies are placing more importance on the inward flow of information to enterprise applications such as ERP, EAM, CIS and SCM. In the ELP industry, rapid incorporation of information from the field allows companies to optimize power generation, transmission and distribution through improvements in planning, scheduling, inventory management, logistics and other processes. This inward flow of information is nearly impossible to achieve, with any degree of detail or reliability, with horizontal solutions, such as wireless email.

Mobilize what? Contrary to what many believe, the biggest barrier to mobile adoption isn’t the complexity of the mobile technology or tying it to back-end software. According to a study by a leading industry analyst firm, two of the largest challenges that companies have to overcome are proving the business case and selecting areas to mobilize. While the first challenge is rather apparent, the second is less obvious. Yet it is true that many applications of mobile in the utility industry are hard to uncover. At Capgemini, with multiple live deployments in utilities, we have the benefit of the collective intelligence of the world’s leading utility companies behind us. This gives us great confidence in confirming that mobile technology finds its uses in virtually all parts of a utilities provider’s value chain. The next several pages of the report will review some of these applications as well as benefits that companies can realize.

Benefits of mobile technology Increase worker productivity. Mobile solutions improve worker productivity by minimizing idle time, unnecessary travel and redundant data entry. UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

23


Consider the following example that compares a paper based work order process with one that can be achieved with a mobile work management solution. With a paper based system, a single work order requires an 11-step process that involves at least five employees to print, sort, enter data and perform the actual work. With mobile technology, work orders can be automatically scheduled, distributed to field employees and closed without a single paper document. This cuts out multiple time consuming steps from the process and results in better visibility and supervisory control across the board. Reduce costs. Replacing a paper based system with a mobile work management solution delivers considerable cost savings. Using mobile technology allows companies to handle increased work volumes without the proportionate increases in staffing levels. For many companies, this can translate into significant savings in hiring, training and salary for new employees. Several other areas benefit from cost savings as well: • Eliminating the need for data entry and handling of paperwork can reduce administrative expenses and allow companies to retrain administrative staff to perform higher value activities • Better management of spare parts and tools inventories reduces the organization’s costs in handling these items and often completely eliminates excessive shipping charges for emergency parts orders • Tightened supply chain capabilities, specifically with raw materials 24

UTILIMETRICS QUARTERLY FALL 2010

forecasting leads to decreased operating costs • Faster turnarounds by pairing project management software with mobile solutions can save companies millions of dollars in lost revenue and overtime labor costs Streamline operations. Although some benefits of mobile technology can be easily tied to the organization’s bottom line, many others contribute to the company’s competitiveness and long term well being less directly. The improved flow of information to and from field employees serves as a key enabler for companies to: • Improve and accelerate decision making by providing employees with situational data they need to confidently make decisions in the field: Because the data is continuously and consistently updated by the entire team, engineers can be confident that they are making decisions based on trustworthy and up-to-date information. • Improve visibility into work status. Without mobile technology, the work order status and information captured in the field is often collated only at the end of the shift when all employees return to the office. Extending backend systems to mobile devices allows managers to have instant knowledge and control of the work that is being done. • Improve scheduling. Enabled with real time work status and location information for employees, inventory and equipment, supervisors can make vastly better scheduling decisions. The added transparency of operations ensures that travel times are minimized, that engineers who arrive at the job site have the correct qualifications, and that all necessary parts and tools are available at the job site before work begins. This eliminates employee frustration, saves labor and travel hours and ensures that more work gets done every day. Extend asset life. Multiple operational improvements created by mobile technology allow engineers to do a better job at servicing critical assets. Improved productivity and scheduling provides more time for preventative maintenance of power plants, the transmission network, substations and the distribution

infrastructure. In addition, immediate access to historical maintenance and repair records allows technicians to better isolate current and potential problem areas and perform proper and timely service on assets. As a result, first time fix rates improve, and the assets’ service life is extended. Increase responsiveness. Bridging the gap between the field and the office greatly affects a company’s ability to react to unexpected events, shortening outage times and allowing engineers to swiftly resolve unforeseen changes in loads and conditions. Adding mobile components to outage management, work management and scheduling/dispatch systems allows system operations to rapidly disseminate large numbers of work orders and instructions in response to an outage or emergency. Improve employee satisfaction. When employees have the right tools and resources to do their jobs, their satisfaction invariably improves. After all, staff engineers and technicians are hired for their skills in their crafts, not for their ability to navigate mazes of paperwork and intricacies of forms and procedures. And it certainly adds much to astandby engineer’s stress levels to get out to an unfamiliar outage site, at night and under heavy rain, and not even know where the assignment is without consulting detailed maps in the truck. Mobile software solutions can give employees improved autonomy and personal control over their work, and they can streamline the inter-departmental cooperation that makes many tasks easier. The results are increased employee morale and decreased absenteeism and turnover. Enhance safety and security. Mobile solutions promote employees’ safety by providing them with the information they need to make competent decisions in the field. For example, if a switch was broken and is being replaced, the entire team benefits from knowing when it goes back online. Similarly, having full access to information about the location and condition of the plant and equipment allows linemen to take necessary precautions upfront. Reduce regulatory fines and improve compliance. Compliance and reporting


for the U.S. Department of Energy, OSHA, and state and industry agencies can strain utilities companies’ time and resources. In addition to developing and complying with multiple procedures, companies must readily provide in-depth reports on their operations—facing hefty fines for failure to do so. By capturing information at the point of performance and uploading it directly to back-end systems, companies can quickly create the necessary reports and successfully pass the strictest of audits. Improve customer service. Mobilizing critical parts of customer account management allows utility companies to be more responsive to customer needs and create higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, if a company has a policy of terminating electricity supply to a residence or business when payment is not received on time, the payment status should be updated immediately upon receipt to ensure that the customer can have their power quickly switched back on. Similarly, a customer may be paying his

bill in one of the offices when a service representative in the field terminates the customer’s electrical supply. With wireless applications, an alert will be automatically issued to the field worker and an unfortunate incident will be avoided.

Maximize the value of back-end systems

INDEX OF ADVERTISERS A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing Company ........... 26 www.aymcdonald.com Clevest Solutions ....................................................15 www.clevest Enspiria Solutions Inc ............................................11 www.enspiria.com Hewlett-Packard Company........inside front cover www.hp.com

Finally, extending core back-end systems to mobile devices helps companies get the most out of their investments in these applications. The goal behind implementing sophisticated project management, outage management and GIS was to improve decision making across the organization, track more information and improve analysis and performance in key areas of the business. It only makes sense then, to extend these capabilities to as many employees as possible and to remove paper as the communication medium between information in the field and in the back-end applications.

Inner-Tite Corp.............................inside back cover www.inner-tite.com

Alon Gat is Global Solutions Architect, Smart Energy Services, at Capgemini. Contact him at alon.gat@capgemini.com

Tropos Networks ................................................... 25 www.tropos.com/solutions/mobilepublicsafety.html

Itron ...........................................................................12 www.itron.com Johnson Controls Inc. ............................................10 www.johnsonscontrols.com KEMA Inc. .................................................................. 6 www.kema.com Landis+Gyr................................. outside back cover www.landisgyr.com Metrum Technologies, LLC .................................... 3 www.metrum.us Neptune Technology Group, Inc. ......................... 21 www.neptunetg.com R.W. BECK ................................................................. 4 www.rwbeck.com Smart Grid Roadshow ............................................17 www.smartgridroadshow.com

VSI Meter Services , Inc ........................................ 20 www.vsimeterservices.com

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800.292.2737 | FAX 800.832.9296 | sales@aymcdonald.com | www.aymcdonald.com ● UTILIMETRICS 26 463609_AY.indd 1 QUARTERLY FALL 2010

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