Future-proofing through cloud technology


A 100% public hydropower utility, Grant County Public Utility District is located in central Washington State, bordering the Columbia River where the utility runs two large hydropower generation facilities.

This article was originally published in The Global Power & Energy Elites 2021.

With 42,000 customers, the public utility district is undergoing a technology transformation and business overhaul. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Grant PUD built two large hydropower dams on the Columbia River. These plants now generate up to 2,200MW of peak load power, which provide energy resources for its Grant County customers and also wholesale power customers throughout the Northwest, with residential, agricultural and light commercial customers. Grant PUD also serves many data centres from large multinational companies, using the cheaper power resources in Grant County.

The clean power producing utility is on a five-year technology transformation journey that will overhaul every core system in the organisation – including the utility’s customer information and meter data management systems – replacing legacy platforms with modern solutions that will streamline operations and remove friction in the flow of information needed by decision makers.

According to Derin Bluhm, Chief Technology Officer at Grant PUD, many of the utility’s systems were outdated and in some cases manual, operating without a work management system. “Our field crews still relied on a fax machine to give crews work tickets… they would have to drive back to the office and pick up the fax and then go out and do the work. There were no metrics to direct proper planning and a legacy design system was used for the electrical and fibre services Grant PUD provides to its customers.”

Grant PUD aims to automate the collection of field data for analytics and planning, ensuring efficient network demand management, load balancing and anomaly detection in the field. Bluhm highlighted: “[We recognised] the need to come up to speed with modern technology and achieve all the benefits and value that technology has to offer. In many cases, key tribal knowledge of the organisation is retiring.”

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