Aaron Patterson from Enspiria Solutions addressed some of the critical roles that GIS play in supporting smart grid deployments. Patterson suggests that the ultimate goal of a centralized room with a full view of the energy grid is at least 30 years away, but utilities are working now on biting off smaller parts of the vision to make a smarter grid, and GIS is critical in planning, building, operating and maintaining these systems.
GIS is an important element in deployment planning. At the planning stage, knowing a good deal about the customers and where they live is an important area. GIS allows you to explore and delineate areas of high turnover, such as a college town, where meters will eliminate truck visits to houses when it becomes automated, and providing a great cost savings. Similar savings can be realized in areas where there is a good deal of electricity theft, where meters provide a tamper-resistance means to recoup deployment costs.
After the planning, GIS provides a visual means to communicate the deployment, with a regular visual update about the areas that have been complete. The view provides a means to deploy the workforce to areas where the work is needed, and provides a channel for customer communication.
After the meters are deployed, it then comes down to metrics about the network performance. GIS is an important tool to measure the reads from the meters, and to understand if there are failing meters. When customers become accustomed to the data and feedback from the meter, they come to rely on it, and GIS helps not only determine problems before they notice, but also provision workers to fix it.
The spatial view of wireless network connectivity provides an important input to distribution management systems (DMS), which is one of the first objectives of a smart grid deployment. The GIS started as a means to make maps, and contain all assets and land base. The next phase was on integrated GIS, where it tied together outage management (OMS) and distributed power (DPS) systems. The integration of GIS with other enterprise systems is the norm now within a utility, and there are benefits from this integration across all phases of smart grid deployment.