Utility Week

UTILITY Week 6th November 2015

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Time to harness the power of big data Utilities must become more proactive when collecting and analysing data, a Utility Week round table concluded. Lois Vallely reports. 20 | 6TH - 12TH NOVEMBER 2015 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Roundtable Data Analytics, London, 22 October 2015 P articipants at a recent Utility Week roundtable about data analytics, pro- duced in partnership with IT firm Cognizant, agreed that an "explosion of distributed generation" and the introduction of smart metering, among other things, are responsible for an ever-increasing amount of data being collected. While this is positive and creates opportunity, it also makes it more difficult to "join the dots" and extract actionable insight from data. Delegates observed that an important part of overcoming this data blindness is having a strong idea of what the business wants to get out of its data. Without this, it is difficult to understand what kinds of data to focus on collecting, or how that data needs to be structured. Companies also need to be prepared for the speed and volume at which data is gen- erated by increasingly intelligent assets and to adapt the way the workforce responds to asset information accordingly. Whereas before, problems with assets used to "trickle in" as fast as a technician could inspect equipment, the introduction of technology such as Lidar means maintenance teams now receive an influx of data all at once. Delving further into the impact of big data on the workforce, roundtable attend- ees explored the skills and cultures utilities will need to exploit the so-called internet Views from the table: of things and the sea of data around them. A growing challenge was identified in the pipeline of talent for data and information management. Furthermore, there was clearly some confusion about what an ideal infor- mation professional "looks like" and how a company can incentivise its workforce to improve the way data is collected and recorded. As with so many debates concerning innovation and new technologies in the utili- ties industry, the discussion at this roundta- ble also touched on the role of regulation in enabling utilities to build new big data-ena- bled business models. Some speakers said the regulatory framework is "not ready" for big data and that the regulators seem uncer- tain how they can use data to support their duty to keep customer bills low. This led to a new line of debate over the importance of customer data – as opposed to asset data – in delivering new utility busi- ness models and services. It was agreed that this is a vital area, but one that is bound up with issues around trust and consumer engagement. Utilities need to think carefully about how data can lead to service improvements and clearly communicate these potential benefits in order to convince customers to share valu- able information about themselves and their lifestyles. Gary Ashby, data services manager, Yorkshire Water "We've got to open the datasets up, we've got to share the data that we as an industry are using increasingly with things like smart cities and integration between utilities – that's more and more important." David Salisbury, head of data and business change, National Grid "We know analytics is a game changer, but how do we value the benefit of having analytics? It's a really hard one because benefits are generally

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