For the energy industry, investing in digital tech will generate payback by improving grid efficiency and customer engagement, says a US digital research company.Utilities are today faced with increased demand for improved customer service through advanced digital customer engagement tools, states a white paper produced by ChaiOne, a company that advises on how to derive ROI from digital products and services.
The paper - ‘The 2016 Guide to IoT and M2M for the Utilities Industry’ - produced in February 2016, asserts that consumers are requesting up to date information on the status of their local grid including real-time information on causes and duration of outages, digital billing as well as consumption information and energy efficiency tips.
On the utilities side, energy supply companies are increasingly investing in full adoption of digital plants equipped with M2M, IoT and mobile connectivity solutions for grid efficiency as well as to stay ahead of their competitors.
Technology allows a simplified exchange of data within various stages of utilities' functionalities.
However, the US headquartered company points out that the transition to IoT smart grids is not about utility companies replacing workers with machines but about enhancing the skills for the workforce with digital products.
Digitising power generation
The research also outlines key areas for efficiency for the generation, transmission and distribution of energy as well as retail.
In generation, digitising operations including integrating load demand forecasts with real time grid data services optimises the utilities’ operations and grid reliability through access of enhanced real time grid information.
The integration will allow grid forecasting to be made a minute by minute thing- a situation which would also allow the utility to reduce the impact of an increase in demand by implementing up to the minute grid management.
For instance, utilities knowing of a days’ cloud cover would assist it in predicting how much power capacity can be generated by a solar plant during a certain day resulting in informed power tapping.
In regard to using nuclear power to generate electricity, the report states that digitising the processes would add in safety and efficiency by focusing on how communication flows between key stakeholders in the regulation processes.
In hydro plants, automation can play a significant role by allowing the plants to operate in a more efficient manner through simplified data exchange between human and plant assets.
For instance self-healing technologies can be implied on a plant to allow the plant assets to either either remotely switch-on themselves in case of a failure or communicate with the staff via a mobile app.
Power transmission and distribution
The research company recommends that in 2016, for utilities to optimise their operations in the transmission and distribution sector through M2M and the IIoT, the most crucial investments to make is to streamline the field worker process.
The paper highlights increased efficiency being achieved by employing automation technologies such as sensors and smart meters which would transmit data regarding utilities’ transmission and distribution network status back to a central hub remotely saving the utility time and money.
In the retail sector, automating services would also result in increased customer services and engagement, grid reliability through implementation of energy efficiency programmes and simplified bill payments.