In North America, smart grid consultancy Valutech Solutions has launched a new programme aimed at helping smaller utilities to manage the integration of new technology while meeting customer service and network reliability demands.
Valutech, which has a customer base in the US and Canada, said this week it will begin offering the new programme to utilities engaged in different phases of smart grid project planning and implementation.
The program is designed to assist utility managers with prioritisation and to help build support for key decisions made to avoid or delay significant capital expenditures while still meeting important operating and customer service objectives.
Issues covered by the smart grid consultancy programme include timing of AMI, smart grid and related system deployments, energy efficiency versus demand response and FERC Order 745 implications, and cybersecurity issues and levels of preparedness.
Smart metering risk factors and deployment issues, business process redesign issues and implications and smart grid technology trends and deploy versus delay considerations are also key factors.
Budgets, staffing and other issues will often affect the timing and sequence of smart grid projects and the programmes they are designed to support.
Smart grid adoption equals disruption
In a statement, Valutech said the programme evolved from utility managers asking for assistance in setting the priorities and determining the implications of installing or delaying installation of new billing, voltage reduction and other smart grid related systems and programs until AMI is completed.
Ed Finamore, president of Pennsylvania-based Valutech, said he was excited about the opportunities the programme presents for smaller utilities.
Mr Finamore said: “This low-cost program will provide the technical expertise needed to help utilities of all sizes navigate through the rough waters of smart grid planning.”
Valutech has worked with municipal and rural electric utilities across the United States and Canada, whose non-profit mission presents a different kind of business case with a strong emphasis on delivering customer service, said Finamore.
Sacramento's customer segmenting
In other US municipal utility news, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is collaborating with Innowatts, an energy technology start-up developing personalised products and services, to deploy its machine learning-enabled customer analytics and segmenting platform.
SMUD, the sixth-largest, community-owned electric service provider in the US, said the technology will also it to better understand its customers and provide them with relevant programmes based on energy usage patterns.
Tim Berg, Manager of Corporate Business Development at SMUD, said: “As part of our drive to improve customer experience, we’re interested in analysing smart meter data to learn more about the ways our customers use energy and how we can use those patterns to deliver better programs and services in the future."
SMUD is recognised as being an innovative utility with an appetite for smart technology deployment.
It is the first large California utility to receive more than 20% of its energy from renewable resources.
And in 2012, SMUD implemented a demand response pilot scheme, which has achieved positive results in reducing load.