Utilities today have unprecedented access to the data that describe how the utility business works. Utility leaders are aware of the tremendous value of applying analytic insights to better understand their customers, operational performance, and service data, and are using it to drive improvements through end-user technologies such as smart meters, and smart thermostats. There has also been a focus on advancements in work management, asset maintenance, and optimization to improve cost efficiency.
At the same time, our industry is undergoing remarkable technology changes in the generation assets that power the grid. The increase in adding renewable resources to the grid, as well as the retirement of older conventional generation, is a trend we have seen for many years. Every year, severe storms and extreme weather conditions result in equipment outages and some level of customer interruptions. The challenges to reliability remain, and in some ways become more complex, as the operating characteristics of the power system change. Can the analytics around extreme conditions and outage events point us toward ways to make the grid more resilient or more reliable? Absolutely.
SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC) is a part of the Electric Reliability Organization (ERO) Enterprise. The ERO Enterprise consists of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the Regional Entities. In our role as one of the Regional Entities, SERC has access to performance data for the southeastern area of the United States. SERC is focused on highlighting trends in performance, identifying and prioritizing emerging risks to reliability for our stakeholders. We do that by creating and adapting metrics to measure how well our region and its entities are performing, and developing dashboards to condense those performance metrics for individual utilities. “How does one transmission utility compare to others that have a similar number of line miles of transmission, or a similar generation fleet in terms of equipment outages? Does our region have more instances of transmission line outages caused by contamination than other regions? Do most vegetation-caused outages in our footprint involve dead trees or living trees? What does the performance of transmission and generation assets during this major storm tell us about the resilience of the region?” Simple questions such as these lead to areas of study that produce deeper insights. We translate the insights drawn from the data into guidance documents and best practices, then share those throughout the region. This leads to better preparation for future events and reduced risk in that area going forward.
"We translate the insights drawn from the data into guidance documents and best practices, then share those throughout the region for the preparation of future events and reduced risk in that area going forward"
What trend would I like to see increase in the future? Collaboration between SERC and the other Regional Entities, between the Regions and NERC, and between SERC and its stakeholders. NERC and the Regions are already sharing ideas about what metrics we can apply to performance data in areas such as protection system misoperations and equipment outages. There is an increasing sense of cooperation in developing new dashboards or enhancing existing metrics to paint a more complete picture of how performance areas can reflect changes in reliability risk. In addition, we have seen growing interest from our stakeholders. Generation and transmission operators in our region ask, “What does the data you have say about how we perform compared to the region average or compared to our peers?” From my perspective, these opportunities for collaboration and open dialog are one of the most exciting changes in utility analytics today.