Keeping the lights on might sound straightforward but for energy providers, limiting outages and ensuring a high-quality customer experience is now intertwined with the cloud, software-defined data center and network, and industrial IoT. Pervasive visibility throughout the IT environment and gaining clear and rapid insights enables the energy company to proactively triage performance issues in real-time. A smart grid or smart meter is only as smart as the service assurance solution that uses Smart Data that is well-structured, contextual, and available in real-time to drive insights into application and infrastructure performance.
Digital transformation, big data analytics and the Internet of Things are each shaping the energy sector. The biggest gains are with the way power plants operate, in terms of cost savings, and the way assets are managed.
The energy industry is using digital transformation in different and creative ways. Part of this is with evaluating new models to look at power consumption, including the testing out of renewable models; another way is with gathering so-called 'intelligent analytics' on the way plants are run in terms of efficiency. Digital transformation is also redefining the way power plants and assets are monitored, managed and serviced. Real-time analytics are helpful too, allowing adjustments to be made rapidly and to avoid energy wastage.
Some examples of how digital transformation can help the sector have been highlighted in a report by Mark Homer, who is Vice President Global Customer Transformation for ServiceMax (a GE Digital company). Some of the examples discussed by Homer are:
Distributed generation: which is where an energy company relocate power production closer to the point of consumption. Digital analytics allow different models to be run, and this allows the exploration of the respective efficiencies of solar tiles or wind farms to be made.
Managing remote assets: this is particularly important when rural areas are managed by localized power supplies.
Increased automation: by applying computer controlled automation to turbines, for instance, through the use of digital sensors then fine tuning can be undertaken with the view of exacting more power out of existing machinery.
Performance monitoring: The digital capture and recording of information allows engineers to study operations in-depth over time and to make incremental improvements. This can be enhanced through specialized software. Some of this can be automated through smart technology. Knowing the performance of turbines at different points of time allows service schedules to be updated, which can save on engineer time.
Cloud based IT: Making performance data, of things like generators, more accessible allows information to be responded too faster and the appropriate resources to be deployed. Through data analytics engineers can gain a better understanding of which particular piece of machinery is most likely to fail. This knowledge helps to reduce downtime.
One example of the application of digital technology is with PPL Electric. The company has reported a 38 percent improvement in service reliability. This is all down to improved data analytics.
In addition to the above list, there is also the ability to develop the 'smart grid,' which would enable utilities to gain deeper insights on capacity demand and to vary power consumption more intelligently according to business or consumer. The Oklahoma Gas & Electric company has undertaken arelated initiative, taking customer analytics to gain review individual customers' responses to price signals and using this to run specific marketing campaigns.
These different examples show how utilities are digitally transforming while still performing. There remains considerable scope, however, for more activities. According to the Exelon Corporation, less than 2 percent of data relating to the energy industry is captured and that data that is collected is primarily done without automation.
When service assurance is done right, energy suppliers not only meet compliance requirements but also deliver a flawless customer experience. Find out how NETSCOUT solutions accelerate digital transformation in the utility industry and make Energy Smarter. ~ Ron Lifton, Sr Solutions Marketing Mgr, NETSCOUT