Tag Archives: electric

The Wise GIS

ArcGIS Makes It Simple to Answer the Why

My wife’s Auntie Sadie was born old. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was in her late thirties and, even then, she looked old. One of her most endearing qualities was her wisdom. Maybe that’s why she looked old, because she was so wise. When our kids misbehaved, Sadie would be able to look at things from a number of different angles, take apparently unrelated information, and craft her wise analysis of the reasons for the misbehavior. Her special gift was analysis.

In my last two posts, I described three things that the ArcGIS platform does that can transform the way an electric company does its business. They each begin with the letter A. The first is access—the simple ability to give everyone in the company (as well as others such as customers, first responders, and the media) the ability to see its important information on a map, regardless of which device they use, where they are, or what time it is.

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A Lesson from Social Networks

Why Real-Time Collaboration Matters for Electric Utilities

Tony Zingale, the executive chair of Jive Software, once quipped, “We know more about what our high school girlfriends had for dinner than what’s going on within our organization.” Why is that?

For one thing, our consumer apps and social media platforms are built around the notion of collaboration, not workflow. But doesn’t workflow require collaboration? Exactly.

The general lack of internal awareness within organizations is tied to the business IT world’s lagging behind consumer applications. Many of today’s enterprise IT systems model specific workflows. In the electric utility business, IT systems are organized along departmental lines. Integration among electric utility systems has been tough, expensive, and clunky.

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EGUG @ GeoConX

Several years ago, Esri standardized the naming convention for its industry user conferences. For years, the name of the Electric and Gas User Group event was the EGUG Conference. Rather than use the name EGUG, we came up with Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference or EEGGC. A couple of years ago, we were helping Jack Dangermond — founder, president and owner of Esri — with the video welcome to the EEGCC. We reminded him several times the conference name was now EEGGC and not EGUG.

It didn’t matter.

Dangermond proudly stated, Welcome to EGUG!  So much for standardization. The good news is that the name EGUG is officially back, but with a slight twist. We are creating something new, an overarching event that includes EGUG and for the first time the Telecommunication User Group (TelUG). We are calling the event GeoConX hence EGUG @ GeoConX and TelUG @ GeoConX.

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What’s Going On Right Now?

GIS Increases Awareness

There is a significant shift in how electric utilities use geographic information system (GIS) technology. In the old days and maybe even now, utility staff thought GIS was a system that automates the mapping process. And yes, it could also provide good information to other critical systems, such as outage management systems (OMS) or distribution management systems (DMS). Advanced utilities even used GIS to help in the design and construction of their facilities. That’s all great.

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Live from EGGC 2015: Startups Showcase – How Esri’s Startup Program Drives Change


Over the past 25 years, the annual Esri Electric and Gas GIS Conference (EGGC) has become the largest annual geospatial event for utility professionals in the world. This year’s conference focuses on how utilities can employ the latest GIS technology … Continue reading

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Electric Utilities Need Answers

GIS Responds to the Tough Questions

Electric utilities face a new world–one in which the infrastructure is aging along with the workers. The price of everything keeps going up. Customers want better and faster service, but some of them cannot pay their bills. Natural disasters seem to get nastier each year. Governments continue to dole out more and more regulations. The community wants better service, lower emissions, and fewer mishaps. It’s a political nightmare to raise rates. Plus, the new smart grid devices are smothering utility operators with data.

In short: utilities cannot continue to operate as they have been. Utilities need a better way to do business. GIS can help. Continue reading

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What’s the Cost of a Power Failure?

Measuring the impact on customers

This year, New England had one of its worst late season storms in recent history. Heavy snow brought down trees, which in turn, brought down many power lines. Some people were out of power for more than a week. In March, a fire in a substation shut off power to the historic Back Bay section of Boston for several days. The blackout left hotels, office buildings, and subway stations dark and shuttered some of the most exclusive shops in the city. Continue reading

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Spatial Analysis Helps Utilities Manage Risk

Creating a better risk model

When dealing with the complex infrastructure of an electric, gas or water utility system, things often go wrong. Things go wrong because there are so many factors that can contribute to a problem. Utility operators face an enormous task. They must gather accurate and timely data, understand the relative importance of each factor, and determine relative risk of damage to the system. Once utility risk is understood, a rational mitigation and investment strategy can be developed. Most utilities are able to prioritize maintenance and replacement projects based on factors such as equipment age, and the history of maintenance, operation, and failure. Continue reading

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Building a Knowledge Infrastructure for Utilities

Preserving institutional knowledge

When I ran an electric utility operations division, one of my favorite employees was a guy named Stanley. Stanley started as a line worker; climbed poles; became a foreman, later a supervisor; then managed all the crews in the region. I remember how Stanley worked. Continue reading

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Smart Grid Solves Many Problems, Introduces Others

GIS can help you answer tough smart grid questions

Smart grid is about four things:

  • Smart meters—Smart grid gives us more information about the energy we use. Smart meters will help us use less energy. Consequently, we will save money and reduce our carbon footprints.
  • Better electric reliability—Our electric infrastructure is old and fallible. Smart grid includes smart sensors to help utilities locate problems and help the electric utility grid heal itself.
  • Making green energy work—Solar and wind power are quite different from the traditional sources of electricity such as hydro, coal, natural gas, and nuclear. Like the weather, green resources are unpredictable. Smart grid will work to regulate the ebb and flow of renewable energy.
  • Smart grid phone home—By tapping telecommunication networks, smart grid will alert utilities to problems before they even happen. Continue reading
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