The utilities sector is in the midst of a transition to cleaner, more renewable energy sources and is being challenged to transform and modernize infrastructure to meet environmental objectives.
Intermittent renewable energy sources are coming on board, and distributed energy resources (DERs) are becoming integral pieces of the power grid. Utilities are also turning to distributed energy resources management systems (DERMS) to improve grid management. These systems – combinations of hardware and software – allow real-time communication and control of edge devices outside grid operators’ control.
A critical challenge in this transition is the ability to derive actionable insights from the exploding amount of data spilling in from increasingly distributed sources. Utilities need a way to combine DERs data with geospatial information so they can analyze it and leverage AI to predict consumption and reliability.
Managing and optimizing network performance is also paramount with the emergence of smart grids and DERs.
Advanced operational foundation…
In the past, utilities relied on a traditional GIS or legacy solutions to manage their networks, but these solutions are not equipped to meet the challenges of renewable energy integration. Companies need GIS-based geospatial asset management solutions that provide a full digital twin – a digital representation, system of record of a network model, topology, associated assets and surrounding environment.
By integrating GIS with digital twins, utilities can put their asset data to work, enabling real-time monitoring, simulations and predictive maintenance. This integration allows companies to realize better asset management, reduce downtime, optimize resource allocation and enhance overall network reliability.
….in the cloud
“A big element in the daily consumption of energy for a utility company is driven by IT, data centers – it’s a big pool of consumption, and this is where also they are looking now to see how they can be more sustainable,” said Jean-François Allard, director, EMEA utilities and communications at Hexagon’s Safety, Infrastructure & Geospatial division.
GIS-based geospatial asset management solutions that provide foundational digital twins are enhanced further when hosted in the cloud. Utilities can realize myriad benefits from managing their networks in the cloud.
The top five advantages are:
Cloud-based infrastructure allows utilities to scale their operations up or down depending on demand, without having to invest in expensive hardware or software. They can quickly adapt to changing market conditions or customer needs and stay competitive.
“Our customers always ask, ‘Could you dimension the solution you are providing? This is a key element driving sustainability because when our customers are buying their own hardware to put on-prem, the first question they have in mind is, ‘What will be the peak of the usage of my platform?’ They systematically acquire a platform that is dimensioned for the peak they could one day reach in the life of the hardware,” said Allard. “This is where the cloud is very powerful because instead of dimensioning the solution for your peak, you dimension the solution for your average usage. Often the average usage is half the peak, and the cloud can absorb the peak because it’s built to achieve this kind of support. This is how utility company IT departments can become very sustainable simply by decreasing the energy needed for a data center or pure IT solution.”
Cloud providers invest heavily in security, compliance and data protection, which can help reduce risks from cyber threats, data breaches and other security vulnerabilities. Cloud providers also offer advanced security features, such as encryption, access control and threat detection and response. Additionally, by moving to the cloud, utilities avoid costs associated with IT personnel who have to constantly keep up with security, which can be very expensive, time consuming and not always 100% effective.
By moving to the cloud, utilities can reduce IT infrastructure costs, such as hardware maintenance, software licensing and data center management. Cloud services also often offer pay-as-you-go pricing models, which can help reduce capital expenditures and manage operational costs more effectively.
Cloud-based infrastructure allows utilities to work from anywhere, on any device, as long as there is an internet connection. They can work remotely or collaborate with partners and customers from different locations, which can improve productivity and efficiency.
“Once you are in the cloud, automatically you get a more collaborative environment. It’s obvious, but once your system is in the cloud, you can access it from anywhere, from everywhere,” said Allard.
“In utilities, most sensors are already connected to the cloud. All the real-time data collected – pressure, electricity, voltage, etc. – is automatically saved to the cloud, where it’s processed through edge computing. You can perform aggregation statistics, analytics, and all that information can come back to your system on-prem or into your own cloud instance in the form of pure data or alarms. Entering into the cloud is entering into a more real-time world with more data sharing between colleagues, and also between organizations.”
Data is mirrored in real time and disaster recovery processes are fully automated to reduce downtime and small delays that are often not seen by end users.
Hexagon can help
HxGN NetWorks in the cloud is a fully managed SaaS geospatial asset management solution for utilities and telecommunications. It provides all the features and functionality of an on-premises solution, with the convenience, security and multicore processing power of cloud architecture.
Learn more about how you can transform your utility network with HxGN NetWorks.