A growing number of utility companies have begun implementing data warehousing and analytics technologies to handle smart grid data.
One example is Southern California Edison, which recently installed new data warehouse technology from Teradata to collect and manage data from smart meters.
The warehouse is designed to manage up to 100 terabytes of data and will be a key component of SCE's SmartConnect initiative.
Under the initiative, SCE will deploy close to 5 million smart meters to residential and business customers across its service area.
The smart meters will capture residential energy-use data in hourly increments ---and business energy-use data in 15 minute increments--and pump it back to Teradata's Active Enterprise Data Warehouse platform.
There, the meter data will be combined with billing, weather and other data and then made available to SCE's customers.
The goal of the effort is to help consumers better manage their energy consumption by giving them more visibility into their usage habits, said David Erickson, director of IT for Edison SmartConnect in a prepared statement.
"Consumers will soon be able to view and analyze their energy consumption and see how choices to conserve, especially during peak demand periods, can save them money," Erickson said.
A smart grid is a system in which digital technology is used to control electric power transmission, distribution and delivery. It utilizes smart-metering technology to collect detailed real-time energy consumption data from homes and businesses and to transmit it back in real-time to power distributors.
The data gathered from smart meters and other smart grid devices on the network will let utilities such as SEC improve distribution and operational efficiencies said Terry Burns, executive consultant for Teradata for the utility industry.
It will enable them to troubleshoot and fix problems faster and let them deliver dynamic pricing options based on factors such time or type of use, he said.
Projects such as those at Edison are expected to drive a huge increase in demand for data analytics technologies over the next few years. Teradata is involved in similar projects with several other utilities, Burns said.
Analysis firm Pike Research estimates that smart grid projects will generate more than $4 billion worth of demand for data analytics technologies by 2015.
Much of that demand will stem from the need for utilities to get a handle on the "tsunami of data" that will be generated by the smart grid technologies that are currently being deployed by utility companies, said Bob Gohn, an analyst at Pike Research.
"The amount of data that utilities will need to handle goes up by several orders of magnitude," with a smart grid Gohn said. "So it's a raw data problem," in the short-term for many utilities."
The longer term challenge for many will be to figure out ways to derive broad value from the huge amount of data that they will posses, Gohn said.
A lot of different systems, such as energy management systems, metering systems, distribution and outage management systems and asset management systems can benefit tremendously from smart grid data, he said.
However, to take advantage of it, utilities will need to make some fundamental changes, he said. "All of these are fairly isolated, independent applications that are now beginning to merge together because of the data," Gohn said.
Increasingly IT organizations within utility companies will need to find a way to work more closely with the operations teams, he said.
While some utilities that have rolled out smart grid components are relatively well prepared for this change, many others are not, Gohn said. "Most utilities are no better than a C+."
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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