Historically, both technology and information technology have been underfunded within the Energy sector. With today’s tumultuous energy climate, that is unacceptable especially in light of the enormous technology investments being made in all segments of the energy value chain.
Recently, we’ve seen sizable benefits from basic investments in instrumenting the grid in digital and smart technology. Although the benefits are going well beyond what was previously thought possible, there are challenges. For example, collecting and communicating high frequency interval data generates data volumes in terms of “petaflops” as opposed to megabytes. While this data at its surface is customer/usage data, it also contains asset and locational attributes. This additional date when combined with other core systems information drives real value. It’s this additional value that makes technological investments worthwhile.
In order to truly take full advantage of new technology (smart meters, home devices, measurement devices along the transmission and distribution system, or even within a plant) sophisticated data collection must occur. This includes assembly, filtering and parsing, cross cutting, examination, and ultimately mining and analyzing enterprise data.
The electric utilities of today look vastly different than their predecessors from just a few years ago. They are faced with unprecedented challenges: Cost pressures, customer choice, cyber-security threats and protecting the environment. Revenue and tax bases are eroding while the demands on the asset infrastructure grow. Huge upgrade projects are being undertaken to address moribund and even prehistoric systems.
The Internet of things (IoT) contributes to the complexity of the infrastructure while the ability to leverage and extract value from those new systems stays the same. As the Energy Value Chain evolves and new business models are revealed, the workforce is pressed, squeezed, and transitioning.
Gas utilities have dealt with regulatory pressures for well over thirty years. They have adapted by becoming leaner and more customer focused. Even with this adaption, they still face the same pressures as electric utilities: cost, operational efficiency, security, aging infrastructure and aging workforce. But unlike their electrical counterparts, they’ve had fewer opportunities to take advantage of new technologies.
In order to ensure the currency of transmission and distribution assets, various pipeline integrity programs have been spawned from regulatory requirements. The ability to meet functional, regulatory, and compliance obligations is even more challenged.
Like gas entities, water companies and municipal water districts are also challenged to provide their product in a safe and efficient manner. Climate change and environmental considerations are driving conservation efforts. Aging workforce and infrastructure loom large while security threats are also felt. Meanwhile stakeholder and shareholder pressure for cost effective and efficient investment decisions. At the heart of this decision-making capability are analytical tools and other complex technologies.