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Big data and analytics are changing the way businesses are run. But there is a lot of noise surrounding both as to where to start and what the end goal should be. I see a lot of opportunity for big data analytics to flourish in the utility industry, while helping to make the systems more reliable and safer than ever. Can integrating big data be a complicated process? I think it was a bit complicated a decade ago, but that’s not the case anymore. Having experience in the electrical and big data & analytics industries I can shed light on how the process can be streamlined.

What’s going on with the utility industry?

The current utility system is old and an estimated 50-60 percent of existing utilities systems will need to be replaced in the next 10-15 years.

In modernizing the system, energy sources like solar and wind are emerging as the most preferred forms of energy production.

The United States, Canada and United Kingdom have plans to transition their utility systems to smart meters, due to their ability to provide reliable service to their consumers.

Consumers have more information than ever and want to take more control and have insights into their consumption and usage patterns.

What I think utility industry needs

I personally believe that having control over three main aspects of the utility industry will drive excellence.

Energy Generation: It is the starting point of any utility system, without energy generation there is no system that’s useful at all. Having controlled and improved generation standards over time keeps the utility industry reliable and helps acquire customers in long run. Energy generation sources like wind and solar that can vary in terms of output every second – a robust system that can identify, analyze and be reactive to this change in output would be a big win for the system.

Big data and analytics can help implement such a reactive system and has proven to be successful in many implementations across industry verticals.

Distribution: The grid needs to be stable and reliable at all times in order to avoid surges and quality issues. If the grid can be maintained at a stable state, the life expectancy of all devices become predictable. Big data and analytics can be used to monitor distribution systems and make informed decisions to avoid instability in the system.

Customer Operations: Providing customers with uninterrupted and quality power is the promise and responsibility of a utility company. Having the right information at the right time makes it easier for the utility company to avoid customer turnover. Big data and analytics can play an important role in providing customers with information at a moment’s notice. Providing insights and actionable items on their usage can help customers save money and help maintain their trust with the utility provider.

Helping consumers save money by motivating participation in demand reduction programs like Demand Response can help both the utility company and their customers. I have produced a paper in partnership with IEEE that digs deep into implementing Demand Response with big data technologies. Read more using the link here.

 Why big data?

Big data is not just data – there’s more to it. Any data that cannot be processed or stored in traditional data warehouses has to be stored on big data. With the transformations and upgrades in the existing electrical setup around the world there is complex data in many forms that is being collected. This data needs to be analyzed and stored. Big data platforms play a great role in handling these situations by making retrieving, analyzing and working with data much easier.

Big data might just be a small word but it has a broader definition that stretches beyond one’s imagination. Improving operational excellence helps utility companies stay ahead of the curve and sustain long term growth. Big data can be beneficial and can easily become an integral part of the system to achieve operational excellency.

By Vivek Vajjala

Originally posted on LinkedIn: