Another technology-led area of transformation involving big data for the energy sector is in customer interactions. Utilities are using a combination of big data management tools, cloud, and mobile platforms to deliver new engagements models with consumers.
By looking at interval measured energy consumption, a utility can provide comprehensive analysis to home or enterprise customers and so enable them to better manage their energy consumption. AGL, a large Australian energy retailer is providing such an online self service to its customers.
Additionally, a leading electric utility in Asia is piloting using the interval consumption data to encourage customers to reduce consumption at peak periods by offered financial incentives if their consumption is reduced on certain hot summer days.
This is a win-win for the customers as well as the utility – who is also able to reduce capital expenditure required to meet the ever increasing peak load consumption.
Another example of this move to smart meters is at TNB in Malaysia where the early stages of a pilot project is being rolled out in south Malaysia.
In these ways utilities are trying to better manage the shape of demand and supply curves in their business and hence improve their ability to influence the economics of their business.
At another level, consumer products companies and utilities are seeing a new and potentially even bigger commercial opportunity resulting from a combination of these three technology platforms: Big Data, Cloud, and mobile systems.
The next level of involvement for the customer
With the convergence of interval measurement of consumption with interval period pricing of electricity – customers will be able to shift some of their consumption patterns to periods when prices are lowest and so lower their energy bills.
The other trend is smarter home appliances (ie air conditioners, smart fridges, washing machines, etc.) coupled with home energy management that can be remotely controlled by the customers or in some circumstances the customers may be incentivised to allow the utility company to monitor this.
As the widespread adoption of smart mobile devices increases – the trend is to supply information via this channel. By delivering up to date pricing information to wherever the customer is, this facilitates active customer engagement to instantly and remotely switch off/on devices or lower consumption settings to lower their monthly energy costs.
These options will improve levels of customer engagement and hence improve customer service satisfaction.
When multiplied over millions of customers, this can have a significant transformative impact on the utility business models adopted to dramatically improve their ability to more efficiently manage supply and demand for electricity. In turn, this would result in improved overall business efficiency and profitability.
The evolving power sector
As utility operations and retailing continue to adapt to the rapidly increasing challenges of having more information from sensors / smart grid, facing greater financial pressures coupled with higher customer expectation – the appropriate data from OT (Operational Technology) and IT (Information Technology) systems need to combined to provide these transformative benefits to both the energy provider and the customer.
As in previous benefits delivered from organisational transformations around enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the industrialisation of ERP systems – the same journey is starting to further enhance the benefits derived from OT systems.
The ERP journey of rigor, software standardisation, security and integration of IT systems should be applied to the OT landscape.
OT and IT need to leverage each other’s strengths to deliver new transformational opportunities and dramatically improve operating models and practices within utilities.
The required integration of this big data from OT and IT needs advanced analytics to enhance its value. The delivery of this, via cloud services and mobile platforms is central to this transformation.
While the existing OT solutions and assets have been central to the power industry for years, the data collaboration with other systems needs to be greatly extended, thus delivering new transformational opportunities for utility operations and business models.
These issues will be discussed in greater detail at the upcoming SAP Asia Pacific Conference for Utilities (20-22 May, 2014, Singapore) with utility companies participating including Towngas, ENN, Shikoku Electric, Maynilad Water, DONG Energy, Malakoff, Meralco, and many more.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Power. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Daniel Nimmo is the Vice President, Energy & Resources, SAP Asia Pacific Japan.