Traditional operational and information systems are changing, which is driving grid operations to new levels of efficiency. How will this affect your grid operations?
A lack of communication between operational and information systems and silos is a key challenge in today's grid operations. With the emergence of smart grids, which are more operationally efficient, there is more and more data that needs to be handled efficiently. Efficient handling requires siloed data to communicate across various systems. A smart grid is an electricity supply network that uses digital communications technology to detect and react to local changes in usage. However, as we move towards this digital grid, the traditional operational and information systems will change accordingly.
Let me use power outage as an example. Today, utilities usually have difficulties identifying outage causes - often relying on customers to inform them of power supply disruptions. The problem is ineffective data handling.
This will change with the smart grids but requires cross-communication between data from different silos. Cross-communication enables you to easily access the relevant data to identify what component caused the outage, where the fault is and which of your customers it has affected.
The next generation of grid operations will blur the boundaries between traditional service silos. Although conventional systems are unlikely to disappear entirely, you will see fundamental changes in your operational systems.
Read also our guide to efficient power grid operations for the digital age.
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA for short, are control systems that monitor and manage industrial processes. These systems interact with physical components and processes.
As SCADA is mainly used to operate the high voltage grid, it is unlikely that it will be replaced anytime soon. Replacing it would compromise security, as it influences too many aspects, making it the last fortress standing.
A Distribution Management System (DMS) is designed to effectively monitor and control the distribution grid in a stable way. Utilising data from other systems, such as SCADA and NIS, it gathers, organises and visualises real-time data for analysis, predictions and optimisation of the smart grid.
The problem with today's DMS is that it only solves yesterday's problems. Tomorrow's DMS will be a set of functions in a wider system, where Big Data analysis, machine learning and artificial intelligence will present new prediction opportunities.
Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), or smart meters, is the first step on the path to modernise the electric grid. In the EU, all member states are required to implement smart meters wherever it is cost-effective to do so. The goal is to replace 80% of electricity meters with smart meters by 2020. This is one of the most comprehensive upgrades to the European grid since its construction.
For utilities, the large-scale roll-out of smart meters will enable automatic meter readings down to the hour. However, AMI’s are more than energy meters that can be remotely read. They will also allow you to monitor the load on your infrastructure, gather price information instantaneously, automatically control appliances, access historical consumption data and new possibilities for communication.
AMI's will not necessarily become extinct, but we will probably see the emergence of simpler and more scalable solutions. The systems will be more computer based, in the form of smart meters placed in the homes of your customers, with communication systems that automatically collect data.
Network Information Systems (NIS) are systems developed to operate different types of networks, including electricity, water, and gas. It collects and manages all relevant data in the network, from a component overview to information regarding operations, design and construction.
The functionality of NIS will move closer to Geographic Information Systems (GIS), advanced mapping systems with geographically placed components, visualised according to your needs.
Communication across silos
Merging information from different systems, will make room for a new system with more comprehensive functionality. As an example, if you have a fault in one of your components, SCADA will register the fault and correlate the data with the other systems, even customer-related systems such as a Customer Information System (CIS), enabling you to identify exactly which component needs to be replaced, where it is and which customers the fault has affected.
The emergence of the smart grid will require an overarching system capable of communicating with the various operational and informational systems for effective grid operations. While not all existing systems are outdated terms, some of the existing systems will be replaced with broader platforms with enhanced functionality.