Big data analytics has emerged in response to the exponential growth in data and the utility industry, like most other industries, has started to make several transformations with the use of modern devices, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Figure 1: The four dimensions of big data, also referred to as the four Vs. Credit: GlobalData.

Cloud computing, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, blockchain and cybersecurity are being deployed by utilities in their operations. These technologies are the big current and future investment avenues for utilities and they all have one thing in common, they generate a huge amount of data.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘Big Data in Utilities – Thematic Research’, highlights how the data generated is growing each year as more and more smart devices and technologies are being deployed within the power systems infrastructure by both utilities and consumers. Utilities’ infrastructure is being upgraded with smart devices that will continually generate data. Electric vehicles (EVs), smart home systems, grid management systems and many more subsystems will also interface with utilities and provide potentially valuable data.

The challenge for utilities is to make this data useful and generate actionable insights on aspects, such as consumer behaviour and demand-supply balance, from it. Benefiting from large datasets is not straightforward and utilities need to deploy a range of new IT solutions that allow them to collect the data in consistent ways, as well as transport, secure, analyse and store it. The following chart lists the key players providing these various services.

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By GlobalData

Figure 2: Key players in the big data industry and where they fit in the value chain. Credit: GlobalData.

Furthermore, utilities can use IoT solutions along with big data technologies to achieve greater flexibility and scalability. One of UK’s largest utility companies, National Grid, is using Open Energi’s Direct Demand technology platform to stabilise supply and demand across the UK’s power grid. Complimentary usage of Big Data and IoT will facilitate utilities to enhance their customer relationship, determine outages / leakages and detect faults by analysing the vast amount of data coming from diverse IoT-embedded sensors and smart meters.

Due to presumable reluctance, only a small number of utilities have presently adopted big data analytics actively worldwide. These are mostly large utilities and very few smaller utility companies. While some utilities have designated other companies to implement big data in their businesses, some have collaborated with technology firms through partnerships and joint ventures to build new products and services specific to the power sector that can be used in their business and can also be sold to other utilities.