What Are IT Companies Doing in Smart Grid?

As is true for telecom companies, there hasn’t been much discussion about what IT companies like Oracle are doing in the smart grid segment. A rare exception is the report written by David Leeds of GTM Research (free download with registration, and see page 21). David described vendors and their focus areas in smart grid. Although the report was released in July 2009, it is still a good primer for the smart grid market. Oracle is mentioned in three places: meter data management, utilities deployment and integration, and the LAN segment (via acquisition of Sun).

So it was timely to listen to Brad Williams, Vice President, Utilities Product Strategy, who happened to be a keynote speaker at the recent Networked Grid 2011, to find out what Oracle is up to regarding smart grid.

Brad Williams

He covered quite a number of topics, listed below, but emphasized the importance of information and how to use it for utilities. The following is a summary of his talk.

These were his seven topics:

1. Smart grid investments

2. Consumer transactions

3. Electric vehicles

4. Intermittent renewable and electricity storage

5. Aging assets

6. Smart grid device management

7. Business intelligence and analytics

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Smart grid investments:

  • Investments continue but regulators require the added value of smart grid.
  • Consumers need to be convinced of smart grid’s value.
  • New entrants to the market include Google and Microsoft.
  • Some negative media hype exists because of increased power bills.

Brad cited statistics on the growth in the amount of data collected as more smart grid applications are brought in to the utilities to run. The amount of data increases exponentially and may hit more than 800 TB (1 TB is 1,000 times 1 GB). Utilities will face this staggering amount of data and process it to obtain useful information.

Amount of data increases as new applications are added to a Tier-1 utility.

It may be hard to read the picture. These are the labels for the points shown on the graph:

  • Advanced Distribution Automation
  • Workforce Management Project
  • Substation Automation System
  • Mobile Data Goes Live
  • Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) Upgrade
  • GIS System Deployment
  • OMS (outage management system) – 200-TB point
  • Distribution Management Rollout
  • AMI Deployment
  • Programmable Communicating Thermostats (PCT) Come On-line – 700-TB point
  • New devices in the home enabled by the smart meter – 800-TB point

Consumer transactions:

  • Transactions are much more real-time, and IT needs to keep up with them.
  • Utilities are educating consumers with key messages like:
    • Rate change and the benefits that come with smart grid
    • More-reliable services
    • Win-win for both utilities and consumers

Oracle’s take is that the discussions with consumers need to expand.

EVs: If managed well, they could be a killer app, but if not, they could disrupt the grid. Seventy-two percent of large utilities are evaluating EV adoption. Oracle thinks smart charging is the area where it can apply its expertise on management information to optimize the charging mechanism.

Intermittent renewable and electricity storage: Oracle is working with its customers to model, monitor, and manage renewable energy sources.

Aging assets: With smart grid, more information is available for devices and components and that will prolong their lives and make it possible to provide timely and proper maintenance.

Smart grid device management: Smart grid brings IT and OT (operations technology) together. An IT company like Oracle could provide services beyond traditional technology fields to the power market.

Business intelligence and analytics: As more data is collected, knowing how to make useful information out of it would give a company a competitive edge.

As you can see, IT companies can make the best of what’s going on in the smart grid market and enter the power utility area with their information technology and data analysis expertise.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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