US-based Utilities Telecom Council (UTC), the trade association for integrating information and communication technologies into electric, water and gas companies, has launched a four-module training program.
The Utility Modernization Advisor (UMA) aims to help utilities address the “complexities of modernizing their metering systems, distribution automation, demand response and related applications by guiding them through a innovative mentored process that maximizes modernization program benefits, minimizes program cost, and minimizes program risk”, UTC said in a statement.
Challenges to modernization
Connie Durcsak, president and CEO at UTC, said: “This program, more than a year in development, was built to address persistent concerns raised by UTC members.
“While many utilities, particularly small and mid-sized organizations, have strong drivers to modernize, they are challenged by the financial and staff resource commitments of traditional approaches, as well as the lack of credible data sources necessary to ensure success,” said
Ms Durcsak added: “The UMA is a modular, mentoring approach that has been proven to provide utilities with a cost effective and timely means to do-it-themselves.”
The UMA program is based on feedback from large US and international utilities with a combined customer base of more 200 million electric, gas and water customers.
UTC commissioned a consultancy company to develop the four-part course designed to help utilities take advantage of lessons learned by others who have already modernized, the council said.
Each module is designed for a distinct project phase and utilities may implement any mix of modules. The following is a breakdown of the program:
* Module 1 –Foundation: vision, strategy, justification. This program is built to support the needs of electric, gas and water utilities of all types.
* Module 2 – Procurement: RFP templates, proposal assessment, recommendation. The module also provides processes that qualify bid proposals so that they can be justified on best value – as opposed to the lowest initial cost.
* Module 3 – Contract: master agreement, schedules, project documents. Once the proposals are received and accepted, the UMA includes standard contract language documents that help define and cover the scope of services, performance requirements, etc.
* Module 4 – Implementation: project management office, project documentation, key performance indicators. Module 4 helps utilities deliver on time, and on budget.
UTC said it will support utilities through the modular course with workshops and mentoring from the utility project team.
Mike Oldak, VP Strategic Initiatives & General Counsel at UTC and UMA program manager, explained: “UTC does not send a toolbox with spreadsheets and watch as utilities attempt to assemble projects.
“We provide ongoing support to clarify or qualify objectives, better utilize the modules, or just offer insight based on the experiences peers.
He added: “An interesting realization from this approach is that it engenders corporate learning and a process discipline that translates into other projects and programs within the utility.”
The program will also include the formation of the Utility Modernization Council (UMC), a roundtable of UMA participants, utility practitioners and a curated group of leading technology partners.
The work of the UMC will ensure utilities have access to the thought leadership, knowledge, and general wherewithal to the tools necessary for the continuous improvement, a requirement to successfully service their customers and members.
The launch of the UMA program was attended by more than thirty utilities including a trade mission from Brazil.
Nashville Electric Service and Conway Corporation, the first utilities to utilize the UMA program, participated in a panel session to share their experiences.
Industry participants included Itron and Landis+Gyr who provided grant support for the initial research effort, as well as Alcatel Lucent, Sensus, Trilliant Networks and the US International Trade Administration.