ABB/Zpryme survey: Analytics can improve electric utility operations

Power and automation technology group ABB announced the results of a recent survey of diverse utilities — conducted in conjunction with market research firm Zpryme — demonstrating a growing opportunity for leveraging data analytics to maximize operational excellence, enhance customer satisfaction and improve financial performance.

The survey received responses from 150 executives at investor-owned, municipal and cooperative utilities across North America. Their responses indicate a growing desire to better manage data – and its critical role in generating the total picture of physical assets – to positively impact key utility functions such as asset health management, distributed energy resource management, cybersecurity and customer engagement.

Large percentages of respondents indicate that their top investment plans in the next five years will be in emerging areas such as distributed energy resources (44 percent), predictive maintenance (37 percent) and APM (31 percent).

And, nearly a third expect their largest return to come from investments in distributed energy resources (e.g., renewable power, energy storage and microgrids), as well as APM (11 percent) solutions to better manage these resources.

One respondent, Joseph Thomas, VP, Electric Systems Operations at the United Illuminating Co., said, “With new types of sources connecting at the distribution level, we need a complete picture of the assets – including the infrastructure as well as the communications systems and the data – so that we can monitor the assets’ performance and predict outcomes. If an asset is going to have a problem we can measure it and identify it before it actually fails.”

Another respondent, Jeff Fleeman, Director of Advanced Transmission Studies and Technologies, American Electric Power, is seeing the benefits of an APM solution like ABB’s Asset Health Center. He said, “It will do three main things for us: 1) it is going to prevent failures and their consequences, 2) it is going to optimize our maintenance efforts, and 3) it will help us prioritize our replacement of aging or poorly performing assets.”

There are always challenges, however. Key among them, according to 67 percent of respondents, is the integration of different IT systems. Other challenges include a variety of data sources (e.g., AMI meters, distribution sensors, social media, etc.), as well as a tendency to silo key areas of their organization – focusing analytics investments in network management, workforce management or cyber security.

“This survey reveals numerous opportunities for utilities to break down silos across their organizations and connect data sources to make more fully informed decisions,” said Massimo Danieli, Managing Director of the Grid Automation business unit within the company’s Power Grids division. “Data can drive significant changes — operational excellence, increased profits, decreased capital and O&M expenditures and better planned safety efforts — but only when it feeds the big picture by integrating the IT systems managing the data.”

For more information

Click here to download the survey report, “The Data Core: Driving Utility Operational Excellence through Data Integration Providing a Detailed Overview of the Survey’s Findings,” for more details on the survey findings.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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