Data privacy tops utility CIO concerns in U.S.


Jill Feblowitz, IDC
Energy Insights
Practice Director
Framingham, MA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — December 15, 2010 – Privacy has emerged as the number 1 concern related to data security and management for utility CIOs, according to a new study from IDC Energy Insights.

Data governance is an emerging concern, but the data volumes created by smart metering do not appear to be a key concern, despite expectations of higher volumes of data – perhaps because most utilities have not yet instituted time-based rates.

“Customers have a great deal of concern about how their data is being used and distributed, and our survey indicates that utilities are taking this issue extremely seriously,” commented the study’s author, Jill Feblowitz, IDC Energy Insights practice director.

The study, “Utility CIOs: Living in a Smart Grid World,” was based on a survey of utility IT executives in North America aimed to assess the role of IT leadership in the smart grid world.

The study found that most utilities have an IT strategic plan that takes smart grid into account, with the most frequently mentioned focus areas being improved operational efficiency, grid security, and support of new programs such as demand response.

Utilities also are discovering that they need business applications, enterprise architecture, and business process modeling tools to support new initiatives, although less than a quarter have access to smart grid funding for business applications and foundational architecture.

However, a third of the utilities surveyed noted that IT is not involved in developing business cases for new initiatives such as renewable generation, energy efficiency, smarter distribution grids, and smart metering. For 13 percent of the utilities, IT does not become involved until the project is well under way.

The study points out that in the rush to implement new technology, many utilities have overlooked the big picture. Some are now paying the price of not having all the technology in place that is needed to get business value from new investments. A case in point is smart metering, with utilities deploying smart metering system-wide focused on equipment installation, and then telecommunications, but are just now addressing the challenge of delivering more granular interval meter data to their systems. Most utilities have not gotten to the point of being able to analyze data for load forecasting, capital planning, outage management, or to design new programs or payment plans.

It is incumbent on the savvy CIO to take the long view, comments the study. “Ultimately, it is IT’s job to understand the direction of the business, plan for potential new business models, and build an infrastructure foundation that is capable of supporting new directions in the future.”