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A more informed utility is a smarter utility. One way that utilities are getting more informed is the use of predictive analytics developed for Adaptive Planning solutions. As the concepts involved with Adaptive Planning are embraced by the industry, utilities will find a better understanding of their asset management programs and improved operational strategies.

“Adaptive Planning is a dynamic master planning process that uses advanced analytics to address interdependencies between asset management, capital investments, market dynamics and operations,” said Martin Travers, President, Black & Veatch’s telecommunications business. “Adaptive Planning presents one example of how utilities are embarking on the transition to a smart utility.”

Leveraging cloud-based computational capabilities, Adaptive Planning uses data to create, compare and optimize complex planning decisions. This could include the identification of investment priorities using a risk-based approach. Outputs from each planning area can also be used as inputs into the other areas, Travers noted.

Most utilities are using some level of technology and have deployed two-way sensors and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Yet, as the Black & Veatch 2015 Strategic Directions: Smart Utility report shows, in many instances, the data collected is limited. In other cases, the ability to manage the wave of information has not kept pace with the shear amount of data.

In contrast, new Adaptive Planning solutions leverage an ensemble of layered data that includes historical data along with real-time incoming network intelligence from existing sensors, according to John Chevrette, President, Black & Veatch’s management consulting business. This allows utility leaders to effectively address core functions such as:

  • Strategic Options Assessment: Advanced scenarios and comparison analytics can be used to evaluate capital investment, maintenance, operations or compliance options against a wide-range of metrics.
  • Asset Management: Analytics can enrich asset investment and maintenance plans with an understanding of risks, impacts and criticality. For example, a utility could assess the impact of changing its capital plans on system reliability and demand fluctuations.
  • Operational Planning: Analytics can project variances between actual and planned performance and reveal improvement opportunities. For example, using Adaptive Planning, a company could better anticipate how different operating decisions would impact regulatory compliance.

While more utilities are using analytics to improve operations, fewer are using the more predictive forms of analytics to prepare for an uncertain future, Chevrette said. The Adaptive Planning framework enables utility planning efforts to shift from being an annual event to a more flexible and timely process that is more closely integrated into normal business activities.

Case Study: Adaptive Planning in Hawaii 

Chevrette cited a case study involving Hawaiian Electric, the state’s largest electric service provider.

“Hawaiian Electric is faced with the most aggressive moves to adopt renewable energy by any electric utility worldwide,” Chevrette said. “The influx of unprecedented amounts of rooftop solar has created issues ranging from grid instability to a shifting revenue base.”

He said that in order to meet these challenges, Hawaiian Electric is using Adaptive Planning analytics to help make more informed decisions about its increasingly complicated service criteria.

“By running numerous operational and business-case scenarios, they are able to be more proactive in their planning,” Chevrette said. “Cloud computing has made it possible to quickly process and analyze billions of records of data at the necessary level of granularity. This allowed the client to construct tactical plans that identified the steps of transition from current state to desired future state.”

No Longer Planning in Isolation

This ability to model potential market factors has wide implications for other utilities and essential infrastructure services that rely on energy to function. Given the rapid rate of technological change and shifts in business models, it is no longer possible to plan utility operations in isolation.

“As operators gain a greater understanding of their businesses and the ongoing changes, there is a corresponding awareness that utility planning must incorporate the sharing of information with other utility service providers, as well as local municipal services,” Travers said.

He noted that the same is true from the perspective of city managers. Faced with challenges from climate change, aging assets and evolving transportation/workforce conditions, the move toward greater coordination between city resources and critical utilities is an essential component of the Smart Integrated Infrastructure systems that enable smart city programs.

Adaptive Planning helps facilitate this process.

“The increasing use of technology offers utility operators greater understanding of their networks and the communities they serve,” Travers said. “Advanced analytics are shifting how utilities use data to more effectively plan for the future.”

Published originally on Black & Veatch Solutions. 

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