1995 Utility Studies Identify Automation Technology Trends

1995 Utility Studies Identify Automation Technology Trends

By Alison Fowler, Utility Automation Research

Utility Automation (UA) Research, formerly CSR Market Data Services, recently completed a series of 1995 utility studies. These studies focus on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and automated mapping (AM)/facilities management (FM)/geographic information systems (GIS) technologies for the electric, gas and water utilities. Throughout 1995, market analysts interviewed utility managers at more than 3,120 U.S. and Canadian utilities to identify specific system purchasing plans. The projects identified in each study would be awarded within the 30 months following the publication of each study`s report, according to the utility managers interviewed.


A comparison of electric, gas and water/wastewater SCADA studies show some interesting trends. Compared to 1994, the 1995 electric SCADA study showed a 14.4-percent decrease in the number of planned SCADA/energy management systems (EMS) projects. A 35-percent decrease was also seen in dollar value of the projects. The same results were seen in the gas utility/transmission pipeline SCADA study. A significant drop of 39 percent in dollar value was noted, with only a slight decrease in the number of projects.

These large decreases in both the number of planned projects and dollar value did not carry over into the water/wastewater studies. This study identified nearly the same number of projects as the 1994 study but reflected a 22-percent increase in planned project dollars.

Figure 1 illustrates the comparison of SCADA projects by dollar value. According to the 1995 studies, 54 percent of all SCADA project dollars were being spent by electric utilities, followed by 29 percent by water/wastewater utilities and 17 percent by gas utilities/pipeline companies.

Approximately 45 percent of the total number of projects identified in 1995 were electric SCADA/EMS, again followed by water/wastewater with 37 percent and gas/pipeline with 18 percent.

When reviewing the planned systems, there seems to be increasing usage of PC-based operating platforms, as illustrated in Figure 2. The majority of planned PC-based operating platforms are identified in the water/wastewater studies. Out of all the projects identified in the water and wastewater studies, approximately 74 percent plan to use a PC-based operating platform. Gas and electric utilities plan to use PC-based systems considerably less. More electric utilities plan to use workstation-based operating platforms compared to the other utilities. Gas utilities plan to use mainframe based systems in nearly 10 percent of the projects identified, while electric and water utilities planning to use mainframes did not even register on the graph. UA Research has followed the decline of mainframe-based computers and has monitored the narrowing area between PC-based and UNIX-based workstation environment.

In the three utilities, radio is the most popular method of communication either by itself or in combination with other communication methods. In the electric study, radio communication comprised 40 percent of the total planned systems, with fiber-optic communication following with 11 percent. Water/wastewater utilities plan to use radio communication in 38 percent of the projects and gas/pipeline utilities in 18 percent of their projects.


A comparison of SCADA and AM/FM/GIS projects by utility type is illustrated in Figure 3. This graph shows that according to UA Research, electric utilities plan to spend significantly more on SCADA and AM/FM/GIS systems than water/wastewater and gas utilities. The electric AM/FM/GIS study identifies 272 system and add-on projects valued at $92,251,000. Water/wastewater utilities and gas/pipeline utilities plan to spend approximately $60 million on AM/FM/GIS systems and add-on projects. These AM/FM/GIS system project comparisons are shown in Figure 4. As mentioned earlier, electric utilities will spend more on AM/FM/GIS projects with 43 percent of the total dollars of all the 1995 studies. Gas/pipeline utilities make up the smallest segment with 19 percent.

The 1995 studies show a decline in the number of conversion projects being contracted out to conversion/mapping vendors. According to the research gathered in 1995, more utilities are handling the map conversion in-house. From those utilities contracting out conversion, 46 percent were electric utilities, 36 percent were water/wastewater utilities and 18 percent were gas/pipeline utilities. Digitization is the leading method of conversion and in many cases is used in combination with other conversion methods

AM/FM/GIS and SCADA Integration

The information gathered finds that approximately 80 percent of electric utility projects plan to integrate both SCADA and AM/FM/GIS, followed by water/wastewater utilities with 12 percent and gas/pipeline utilities with 8 percent. According to UA Research`s data, there will continue to be a general trend toward greater integration and data sharing among departments to increase the integrity of the facilities and operations network and to reduce the cost of collecting and maintaining redundant data, all the while improving customer service. Utilities need these automated tools to become more competitive in their ever-changing operating environment.

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