Utilities have double challenge with smart grid, big data

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Eventually, smart grid technology and big data will go together like peanut butter and jelly. But in the implementation phase, they pose distinct challenges for power companies. Smart grid technology will surely compound the need for big data solutions.

The latest issue of Intelligent Utility said, "The smart grid revolution is unleashing torrents of data. Utilities face an imperative to develop ways to transform those bytes into system improvements and innovative services."

It is not dissimilar to the drivers in other industries. The article makes clear that "utilities are making large investments in their information infrastructure, which has to be shared, managed and supported by complex software, with the goal to drive increasingly advanced insights and services."

But the data produced prior to and because of the smart grid is not just about customer usage and marketing. Big data will play a role in better asset management, lower operational and capital expenses, product development, and also performance of the infrastructure.

Smart meters change the entire dynamic for utilities because, in part, it takes them from a monthly read of meters, to hourly reads or less. And the meters are providing reading and metrics on more elements within the home. That's going from 12 reads a year to up to 35,000, the article said.

Big data also changes when and how power is produced, and aides in the location and design of alternatives sources of energy such as windmills.

It's estimated that 10 billion assets will be linked up as the smart grid matures.

In a separate article, Intelligent Utility surveyed energy companies on their plans for leveraging big data. Companies such as San Diego Gas & Electric discussed their smart grid and data plans, including the creation of a new department of 150 employees to manage the intersection of security and big data. It also surveyed the plans of other utilities such as PG&E, Oncor and Pepco Holdings.

For more:
- see Intelligent Utility's survey of future plans

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