The electrical utility industry continues to change. Technological trends and developments in the marketplace are reshaping how power is generated, distributed and consumed. However, many service providers have yet to adjust to these shifts, maintaining antiquated backend processes and support systems that fade with every passing day. For example, roughly 50 percent of American utilities still use spreadsheets to track outages, according to research from the BRIDGE Energy Group. Additionally, 43 percent have no plans to adopt data-based workflows in the near future, indicating that a startlingly large number of utilities remain rooted in outmoded operational methods, even as an obvious sector-wide sea change unfolds before them.
Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option. Electric companies must work to adopt the technology required to meet new challenges head-on. The DataVoice Outage Management System is one of the most effective platforms available, providing utilities with the tools they need to tackle key industrial shifts. How exactly does the solution address the various factors impacting the power industry? Here are three central examples:
Increasing client technology demands
Consumer and enterprise technology has evolved at a breakneck pace in recent years. Innovations like The Internet of Things seemingly materialized out of thin air, before giving birth to more granular technological movements. According to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Utilities are currently grappling with two key developments that have come about as a result of the IoT: intelligent enterprise maintenance technology and smart home devices.
Organizations of all sizes are adopting advanced sensor systems to monitor a variety of shop-floor variables, including energy consumption. These fixtures provide unmatched operational transparency, allowing businesses to drill down into the minutiae of day-to-day internal activities and search for ways to improve productivity and cut costs. Homeowners are doing something similar but on a smaller scale. Smart thermostats and other web-enabled devices give average Americans the power to collect detailed information on their power consumption habits. With this advanced technology at their fingertips, both businesses and consumers are imploring their power providers to take the same route by implementing cutting-edge systems.
The DataVoice OMS helps utilities meet this demand. The system improves operational visibility, offering executives, office personnel and linemen razor-sharp performance insights via real-time data. This information is especially handy during service interruptions, allowing for faster outage response times. Continuing in a similar vein, the PowerPal mobile application, which integrates with the OMS, helps members keep track of their accounts, replicating the kind of transparency they get with smart home technology.
The rise of risk-based ratemaking
Utility companies have, traditionally, formulated service rates based on operating costs. This pricing model is the standard across most industries. However, innovators within the utility sectors are rethinking this approach, Deloitte found. Why? It doesn't take into account a major variable in the power delivery equation: risk.
Natural disasters and human-caused incidents continually imperil key service delivery structures. Americans suffered more than 3,800 major outages in 2016, according to data from the power management company Eaton. These interruptions impacted almost 18 million people. External factors such as inclement weather are often the cause.
Consequently, many utilities have begun to adopt risk-based ratemaking models, using historical data to assess which specific field fixtures might see setbacks and adjust prices to cover this at-risk equipment. This approach has the potential to bolster reliability, along the way improving both service quality and customer satisfaction. Of course, power providers wanting to adopt this strategy must first implement systems capable of culling accurate system performance metrics on a device-by-device basis.
The DataVoice OMS does just that, allowing users to build out the robust data caches required to put into place a risk-based ratemaking system.
The push for grid modernization
Utilities, government agencies and stakeholders in the private sector have wrestled with the issue of grid modernization for years. Some states have made serious progress. California, Illinois and Texas are leading the way on grid modernization, according to research from the advocacy group GridWise Alliance. The Golden State requires major utilities to implement smart-grid strategies while its Midwestern neighbor continues to support a 10-year, $2.6 billion grid-improvement effort via the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, which Illinois legislators passed in 2011. Texas, which is the only U.S. state that operates an independent grid, has succeeded in centralizing its grid operations, establishing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The state also boasts the largest wind energy market in the country and therefore doggedly pursues integrated power generation models.
Things are developing at a slow yet steady pace nationally. Last year, investor-owned utilities spent more than $52 billion on grid modernization projects, according to data from Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation. Additionally, there are currently 70 million smart meters installed in the U.S., with more to come. Even so, the utility industry has a long way to go, as the number of annual outage events has increased in recent years, Eaton discovered.
Utilities can help catalyze further progress in this area by adopting modern operational tools that work with smart meters and other advanced power-delivery technology associated with grid modernization efforts. The DataVoice OMS is the ideal solution in this regard, offering users the opportunity to develop and maintain cutting-edge operations. Electrical companies can use the platform to connect with smart meters or monitor more traditional fixtures to ensure operability. The DataVoice OMS also makes key maintenance activities like vegetation management easier, giving linemen the power to document troublesome trees and other foliage using their smartphones. This not only improves system reliability but also simplifies compliance practices, a costly sticking point for even the most vigilant utilities.
As the utility industry continues to evolve, power providers must progress with it, implementing new processes that improve operations and, in turn, improve the customer experience. The DataVoice OMS is capable of prompting this forward momentum via a host of robust internal and external features. Utility companies that are serious about meeting the challenges facing the industry would be wise to look into the DataVoice OMS. Connect with us today to learn more about our OMS and the other products in our catalog.