Interview with Steven Frère, Senior Technology Communications Specialist, Eandis, Belgium

We all recognize the value that smart grid and meter data can have, but what new challenges does this abundance of data throw up for utilities?
Two types of challenges can be distinguished. On the technical side, the main challenge is to estimate what the dimensions of the central system should be to ensure the required operational activities and services. Here there is a direct link with the capex and opex costs. These dimensions can only be set correctly based on thorough analysis of the ongoing tests (smart grids, smart meters, smart market processes and smart users) and should lead to a set of criteria. This will define whether a piece of data should be transferred on a regular basis to the central system or if that piece of data should be retrieved on demand.

The advantage of smart metering is that a whole lot of information is buffered or stored in the meter over a long period of time. Making use of this buffer can greatly reduce the amount of data captured in the central system so long as the correct trigger criteria are known and in place to react in case there is a need for it. Finding the right balance here will optimize the dimensions of the central systems leading to a cost effective solution.

Meeting customer, market players and societal expectations will most likely lie in analyzing and understanding the different segments of ‘data consumers’ and the added value they are looking for. Each of those segments needs different functionalities, data and service levels, and will create new activities in the market (e.g. data mining to improve data quality of feeder connections and to detect non-technical losses, customer feedback including benchmarks of energy consumption, and the most efficient event and alarm handling).

In your opinion, how will the arrival of big data in the energy industry change the relative roles of the DSOs and TSOs?
At Eandis we strongly believe the DSO, as an independent market facilitator and responsible for a secure grid, must remain in the lead for capturing and distributing data. The usage of the data goes much further than only using data for billing purposes. It also covers alarms, events and grid information, which are directly linked to the network operation of a DSO. The DSO will be monitoring the energy fluxes and perform corrective actions to guarantee network stability. Related to security and privacy, it is important that all incoming and outgoing data is handled without scattering it over multiple parties.

Therefore it is essential the DSO plays a central role, has a direct interface to this information, and can guarantee the correct access to other market parties (incl. commercial parties) of certain data.

Steven Frère will be presenting at the European Utility Week 2013 Panel Session: Reviewing the macro environment to determine the state of the industry and its future, on Tuesday October 15 (14:00 - 14:40).

Click here to read more event interviews.