A New World for Utilities

 The Smart Electricity World conference, running from the 21 to the 23 of June in Melbourne, will showcase the latest developments and innovation in the electricity industry.

Esri Australia’s Regional Lead for Energy , Harry Kestin will be attending the conference, with Esri’s Global Director of Utilities Bill Meehan. Bill will be presenting at the conference on how to support the Smart Grid with a GIS knowledge infrastructure. Amidst all the talk about Smart Grid, Smart Electricity and Enterprise GIS, we caught up with Harry to discuss the upcoming conference and why he thinks Enterprise GIS has the power to transform a utility.

EA: Hi Harry, thanks for joining us. So you’ll be attending the Smart Electricity World Conference with Bill… what’s going to happen there?

HK: There are multiple electricity conferences that focus on Smart Grid and smart electricity networks – these are really important concepts right now. Smart Electricity World will bring executives and industry experts, such as Bill Meehan, together to discuss these important topics. Presently utilities are facing a range of changes and dare I say challenges within their industry. Meeting this changed agenda requires not only a transformation of the industry as whole, but also of individual organisations.

I have spent a lot of time talking with senior executives from around the region and one thing that stands out is that GIS needs to be taken from a business unit function to an enterprise capability in order to facilitate the transformation that is necessary in our industry.

Senior management needs to consider location as a critical part of their systems and their analytics. It’s been found that 80 to 90 per cent of data that a utility holds has a spatial component that has not been utilised up until now for business processes or for business analytics.

Progressive managers within utilities are realising the value of a location-based view of their networks. This conference is about developing that understanding.

EA: Bill Meehan is flying over from the US to attend the conference. Tell us why this so exciting?

HK: Bill Meehan is the Global Director of Utilities for Esri. In his previous life, he was a senior manager at a large electric utility. Bill clearly understands the needs of a major utility and his focus is always from a utilities manager’s perspective. This is why his attendance at the Smart Electricity Conference is so valuable.

Esri has roughly a 40 % market share in large utilities in the US. Bill will be coming to Australia armed with experiences, customer stories and case studies. He’ll be telling us what people are doing in the US and around the world in this space. In this time of rapid change in utilities, there is a real need to share information.

EA: Harry can you please tell us a bit about why Enterprise GIS is such an important concept for utilities right now? What’s one of the biggest reasons utilities need to take notice of Enterprise GIS?

HK: The most important thing those in the energy sector need to understand is that Enterprise GIS will significantly reduce CADI; SAFDI and CAFDI, delivering immediate bottom line benefits.

With our Enterprise GIS solutions, your utility essentially becomes equipped with a location-based operator dashboard – but on a whole new level to anything you’ve ever seen before. As an example, by bringing together large volumes of data, from both inside and outside your utility, you and your staff will be able to see a storm coming, and ascertain where your crews should be so they can do quick repairs when outages strike.

These dashboards will also serve as a visualisation and analytics platform for the raft of miscellaneous Smart Grid data expected to be flooding into the utility in the comin years. You will be able to see the sensor and meter data in relation to its location on the network and inside your territory.

If you’re the CEO, at first glance of your management dashboard powered by Enterprise GIS, you’ll be able to see the number of outages and the number of customers affected. It will give you information from your SCADA or DMS, telling you how many outages you have and help you repair outages. With Enterprise GIS, you get a real time, ‘as it happens’ view of your network, combined with other enterprise asset data and streamlining environmental data, so you can confidently and rapidly make decisions. But of course as you can imagine the benefits go far beyond what I have just mentioned…

EA: GIS certainly isn’t new to utilities. How is this new generation of Enterprise GIS systems different?

HK: Enterprise GIS, unlike the departmental GIS, is one of the necessary platforms to transform a utility. It’s the only way to get a comprehensive, complete view of a utility’s status in the context of the environment of the territory it is serving.

In the past, GIS has been used in utilities to manage the assets and facilities… Hence why it was called an AM/FM system – in that guise it has been in the backroom. It has held the database records for most assets and supports construction and design of the network.

Today, the utility needs to interact with the world in lots of new, different ways. The traditional AM/FM GIS doesn’t have capabilities to do that. In this new world, what’s needed is an ability to interact with customers, the environment ( for example flood, bushfire, storm or weather data), internal applications and a much larger group of staff in the enterprise. Our Enterprise GIS solutions bring together information from all these sources and provide one complete operational overview.

In this new world of utilities, there is a need to provide multiple people with access to the right data and be able to use it, whether these people are in network planning, field maintenance or customer service – they need to be able to interact with the asset data as it is on a map.

EA: So why do senior managers and executives need to understand Enterprise GIS?

HK: Talking about a network in the context of geography and maps is the clearest way to understand, analyse and visualise a network. In order to effectively manage a network, executives must have a location-based view. As I mentioned before, between 80 and 90% of a utility’s data has a location component.

An enormous benefit of Enterprise GIS is gaining situational awareness. One question that every senior manager is always asked is, ‘What’s going on right now in my utility? Where are my trucks, where are my crews, do I have any outages, how is my network in relation to current storm warnings?’ All senior executives need to have a high level view of this information. On the next operational level, managers and staff also need to know this.

EA: Thanks for your time Harry. See you at Smart Electricity World!


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