Three steps utilities must take to create a digital network

A combination of necessity and opportunity has prompted the transition to digital networking in the energy industry.

As the global energy landscape shifts to renewable energy, electrical grids will need to adapt. Renewable energy does not generate energy evenly, causing energy flows that need to be balanced. Many homeowners who generate their own power also complicate the grid as power can flow into homes in multiple ways. It’s an intense balancing act.

All of this is happening against the backdrop of a retired workforce that has taken decades of network insights with them.

The transition to digital technology can help the energy industry address these challenges while increasing utility efficiency, cost savings, improved performance, and business agility. For example, with real-time data and insights, a utility can allow its power equipment to operate at its maximum potential by performing asset maintenance based on the way the data shows the device’s performance. Many facilities still maintain a time-based schedule for equipment maintenance, which is sometimes inefficient and costly. We’re also adding more to the network – the White House recently announced $5 billion in loans To build more infrastructure – Asset maintenance becomes difficult without digital tools.

Correct information can also help the tool redirect energy as needed to maintain online operations while assets are taken offline as in the event of a storm. Additionally, as the landscape continues to evolve, real-time data and insights can help utilities better understand emissions levels and ESG obligations as they chart their path to net zero.

That’s all there is to say: a network powered by enterprise technology is the key to our sustainable future. The difficulty is how to get there. It’s easier to manage when you break it down into three steps.

See also: Digital and Network Technologies: The Importance of Good Timing

Step 1: Select the opportunity

Utilities can digitize nearly every part of the network. It’s easy for network operators or an IT department to feel overwhelmed by trying to tackle everything at once. But the beauty of implementing modern digital solutions is that companies can start small.

Where to start is to determine what results the tool wants to achieve. Often, this addresses the most prominent pain points. For example, downtime associated with failure of assets and equipment. In this case, the deployment of a digital asset management solution will allow operators to collect more data more frequently and automatically, making asset monitoring more effective. But networks often contain thousands, if not millions, of assets. To keep from nibbling on more than they can chew, utilities should limit this range to first focus on more important assets, such as transformers.

Also consider what kind of technology is available to solve the problem. Adding a layer of artificial intelligence and advanced analytics to asset data, for example, will also provide utilities with recommendations for corrective and preventive actions.

By identifying the opportunity for enterprise technology first, companies do not risk falling into the trap of seeing and immediately adopting a great new piece of technology. Instead, it is important to identify the opportunity where digital tools can help and then take the network out of the analog age in this way.

Step 2: Set up the right infrastructure

To take advantage of digital assets, it is important to have the right infrastructure. This includes having the right people behind the scenes to support and advocate for technology as well as the right communication, including training and the right cultural infrastructure.

Much like data warehouses, processes in utilities tend to be isolated from one another. This is the result of the ancient trading structures and systems that have employed them throughout history. The field, the boardroom, the billing office, and more all operate in their own bubbles—they implement processes and systems to support their job’s needs, choose what information to share and when, and make other choices without necessarily considering their needs. other departments. Then, because departments operate in different ways, field workers may resist process changes and learn to use new digital tools.

Some may oppose IoT technology to provide safety and efficiency improvements for field workers. Others may hate the idea of ​​training new workers on systems they don’t know very well. Executives may resist adopting a new system out of dependency, fear of change, and a seemingly vague return on investment.

The traditional tool has hurdles built into digital transformation. To break down these barriers and create the right infrastructure, utilities need to establish connections. Successful digital transformation requires data sharing and consumption at scale across the enterprise. It allows more groups to contribute to the bigger picture and at the same time enhances the support needed to successfully complete actions.

Step Three: Evaluate and Analyze the Results

Once the tool becomes digitized, the data enables it to make better decisions. A lot of jobs and processes can be automated with a digital network, but it’s important to make sure the technology is set up in a way that optimizes tool processes and workflows so that the right benefits can be obtained.

Getting lost in the “sea” of data is a very real concern when implementing network digital solutions – ask any control room operator. Alarm overload occurs when there is no good structure for managing alerts from technical solutions. The network operator is facing a seemingly endless stream of red alerts appearing on screens that indicate the need to stop, look, interact, and remove the alarms. It creates a kind of operational attention deficit. This not only leads to inefficient use of operator time, but also increases the risk of an important alert getting lost somewhere in the chaos.

What is important for the operator to be alerted to should be prioritized sincere It can help ensure that data and outputs from digitization are evaluated and implemented. In this way, utilities can take full advantage of the technology.

A combination of necessity and opportunity prompted the transition to digital in the energy industry. Utilities have no choice but to digitize if they want to navigate the new carbon-neutral energy landscape. This transition was not smooth and uniform for many; However, it is clear that digital transformation of business and workforce is delivering long-term success for facilities.

The leap to digitization may seem like a daunting task, but if it is approached one step at a time, the rewards realized and potential future gains from operational improvements will outweigh the pain.