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Operational Technology and Internet of Energy Integration – Importance for Utilities

The convergence of Operational Technology (OT) and IoT is well underway. The challenge of connecting the ancient grid to modern systems is well known and documented. Grid planners and operators are understanding the need to build a bridge between operations in the physical world and the millions of devices now linked to the network. Integrating these two essential utility facets is key to smoothly transitioning to a smart-grid future. 

Internet of Energy (IoE) relates to the Internet of Things technology within the power grid. It involves using grid-connected devices to optimize and effectively manage energy distribution. But before leveraging these devices, operators and planners must be capable of visualizing and understanding grid dynamics through sensors which monitor this flow.

This involves linking grid Operational Technologies (OT) with thousands of devices active in the network. These technologies include systems like DMS, GIS, OMS, and others.

A lack of visibility

Utilities today certainly do not lack data. Many have data silos in various databases and platforms, spread across departments and have no way of accessing it on demand. As a result, a huge amount of value is being left on the table for teams depending on data. Without a one-stop-shop for all data resources, it is virtually impossible to use in related reports, dashboards and forecasting models. Accuracy is generally the casualty.

Unleashing a Utility’s Data

Utility trends all point towards the importance of digitizing the grid. With this comes the need for increased data processing capabilities and visualization tools.  Data is a utility’s new crude oil, however, crude oil is a finite resource, whereas data is ever-growing, ever-generating.

Forward-thinking utilities are beginning to understand the importance of building a digital representation, or ‘digital twin’, of their physical assets. Existing data from all resources must be documented and aggregated (operational historians, SCADA, AMI/AMR records, GIS, third-party devices, generation and billing data, etc.). Operators and planners must be empowered with a tool for holistic grid visualization. 

For grid operators and planners to gain clear insight into the real-time dynamics of the grid, all measurement data must be accessible from one location. This maximizes accuracy and efficiency between teams. With the ability to manage and maintain an understanding of this energy flow, all areas of the grid can be easily monitored and analyzed. And as we progress further into a renewable world, greater forecasting capabilities and real-time insights will become crucial to maintaining reliability and resilience.

The Convergence of Grid Operations and IoE

“The rapid adoption of IoT- enabled complex machines — and their use with OT platforms — will enable the use of “digital twins” to manage, monitor and maintain machines.”

– Kristian Steenstrup, Gartner

In order to prepare for a smart-grid future, utilities must harness the true value from all their data. They must use a tool which extracts information from data lakes across the entire organization. Analytics, operations and planning teams can then clearly visualize the true dynamics of the grid. Mapping this data geospatially provides another level of insight and understanding. 

As the grid becomes more dynamic, so must the sensors which monitor it. SCADA devices, smart-meters, and reclosers provide valuable insights but do not provide the adaptability and flexibility necessary for today’s dynamic grid. Analytics teams must also leverage dynamic and static sensors with a flexible tool to manage them all.

Continuous Improvement and Preparation for the Future

Digitizing the complex electrical grid is a major challenge for utilities, both big and small. But if modernization of the grid is to be achieved, a focus must be put on building an accurate digital representation of the network. One which ingests data from all sources available and which can integrate with existing internal systems such as GIS, OMS, ADMS, etc.

By building and maintaining an accurate model and with the ability to visualize energy flow in the entire distribution grid, utilities will benefit from enhanced situational awareness, optimized ADMS/DERMS solutions and greatly improved reliability metrics through responding more quickly to issues. 

By focusing on the intersection of Operational Technology and Internet of Energy technologies, utilities can smoothly transition to a smart-grid future.

Andrew  Yagüe's picture

Thank Andrew for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 20, 2019 2:43 pm GMT

Utilities today certainly do not lack data. Many have data silos in various databases and platforms, spread across departments and have no way of accessing it on demand. As a result, a huge amount of value is being left on the table for teams depending on data. Without a one-stop-shop for all data resources, it is virtually impossible to use in related reports, dashboards and forecasting models. Accuracy is generally the casualty.

This is so frustrating to read-- it's hard to think of many other industries that could have the wealth of data or the use for those treasure troves of data that utilities do, but to think that because of lack of foresight or communication that there's opportunity left untapped is unacceptable. Hopefully this focus on data continues moving forward

Andrew  Yagüe's picture
Andrew Yagüe on Aug 20, 2019 3:58 pm GMT

Agreed Matt, almost every industry has been transformed by optimal use of their data, and utilities are sitting on a wealth of value from data analytics that truly absorbs everything available to them. Hopefully soon regulatory and procedural barriers can be broken down to overcome this bottleneck

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