SDG&E’s Chris Chen talks about intellectual capital, smart grid metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach SDG&E‘s Manager of Intellectual Capital, Chris Chen, gave a talk on the Smart Grid Metrics being asked for by the California Public Utilities Commission.

I caught up with Chris after his talk and chatted to him about his role as Manager of Intellectual Capital for SDG&E, his talk about Smart Grid Metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition.

See below for the transcription of our conversation.

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we are at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach. With me I have —

Chris Chen: Chris Chen.

Tom Raftery: Chris you are with —

Chris Chen: San Diego Gas & Electric.

Tom Raftery: Excellent! And what do you do for San Diego Gas & Electric?

Chris Chen: I am their Manager of Intellectual Capital. So I look for innovative ideas and solutions that we have developed that can be commercialized and benefit utilities around the world.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. So have you any interesting intellectual items that you have come across that you can talk about?

Chris Chen: We have come up with a number of things, some related to electric vehicles, we have done some stuff with a thing called smart transformer which is a way to allow distributed load management at the street transformer level. We are working with a company on some micro clearing transactions for smart grid data. Now with the explosion of smart grid data, we could be settling billions of transactions every month versus a million now so we are working with a company to develop solutions to that.

Tom Raftery: Interesting! And I haven’t come across many utility companies before you have an intellectual property arm, is this unusual?

Chris Chen: Well, it’s relatively new. I think that one of things that’s driving us, we have been really the smartest utility for three years in a row and we began to realize that a lot of the problems we are running into because we are an early adapter of smart grid and a lot of solutions we are coming up with could benefit a lot more people than just our utility, so we wanted to help with that.

Tom Raftery: Okay. And you gave a talk this morning on smart grid metrics, what was that about?

Chris Chen: The California Public Utilities commission came up with a list of 19 metrics to help SDGE and the other utilities in California, measure their success at this smart grid roll outs. Now we are putting a lot of money in the smart grid, we want to — they want to make sure that our customers and ratepayers are getting a value for the money they are putting the smart grid, so there are a set of metrics they have developed to help us look at and make sure that we are in fact delivering an effective smart grid.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and what kind of metrics are they?

Chris Chen: They revolved around things like outages, things like that some of the standard utility definitions, how long are some of these outages you have, that’s related to things like the advance metering infrastructure we have rolled out, does that meaning protection go well, did customers like it and were there hardware issues or network issues with it?

Also we did more advanced things like customer engagement, part of the smart grid is meant to engage customers in managing the grid and so they had some metrics around that, had metrics around electric vehicles and a number of electric vehicles being put into our system, also metrics around distributed generation another critical issue of smart grid and the smart grid will help us integrate renewables and be good for our customers, good for their environment, all the benefit of that.

Tom Raftery: Okay and you have mentioned as well, that there is kind of tendency now to move from the idea of asking the question of what happened to what’s happening?

Chris Chen: Yes, we call that predictive analytics. It used to be what happened, now we need — because we have so much more real time data available, now our internal operations are asking what’s happening now, but I think the next stage is going to be so and what’s going to happen, so that data that’s coming from all the smart grid, sensors and systems that we have out there, is going to help us look at things like renewable generation, yeah renewable generations is very intermittent, cloud cover comes over, all your solar goes away for a little while, we’d love to be able to predict that. So we can manage our system more effectively, customer loads, we’d like to predict what customer loads will be so we can combine that with things like understanding solar generation and really manage our system most efficiently.

Tom Raftery: Fantastic! And you are talking later on this afternoon about the utilities of tomorrow contest, can you tell us about that?

Chris Chen: Yes, so SAP in conjunction with several utilities and universities is sponsoring the Utilities Of Tomorrow contest, where we are going to invite students, teams of students from universities all over the world, actually any student can submit a proposal to come up with an innovative ideas related to the energy industry and not just energy, actually it’s any utilities so it could be water or waste management also and then we are going to have a group of experts asses those ideas pick the best ones and bring team of students out to work with experts in Silicon Valley on an expense paid trip to help develop their idea.

Tom Raftery:
And is it a global competition?

Chris Chen: Yes it is.

Tom Raftery: Excellent, Fantastic. Chris that’s been great, thanks for talking to us.

Chris Chen: My pleasure Tom.

SDG&E’s Chris Chen talks about intellectual capital, smart grid metrics, and the Utilities of Tomorrow competition

Hydro One’s Peter Gregg talks about modernizing the utility company

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, Canadian utility Hydro One were presented with a prize for the best SAP project implementation. After the prize giving, I caught up with Hydro One Chief Operating Officer Peter Gregg and he told me about their six year journey to modernize their utility.

Here is the transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! We are the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach and I am here with —

Peter Gregg: Peter Gregg, Chief Operating Officer of HydroOne.

Tom Raftery: Peter, you won an award today, can you tell us about that?

Peter Gregg: Yeah, we won an award, it was the CIS Customer Information System Project that we have just been live with in May and we won best project from a Canadian perspective and it was an American project that won as well, but we have got one because we are special and we are Canadian.

Tom Raftery: And you mentioned that there were a number of projects you have done over the last couple of years?

Peter Gregg: Yeah, we have been on an SAP journey for about six years now where we have sort of done all of our HR, Pay, back office stuff, we have done investment management, workflow processes but this last one which we call our Phase four was the customer information system replacement.

We had a legacy system that had been built for us about 11 years ago, incredibly complex and purpose built rather than out of the box and it was unsupportable, we needed to change it, so we have gone live on May 24th of this year, and we have had excellent success so far.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and I mean apart from the fact that you had that legacy system, that was cobbled together as you say, what was the thinking behind the last six years investments?

Peter Gregg: It’s really — the theme of this event has been sort of modernization of the utilities, and I think we had the realization that to survive in this business, we needed to change our way of life, we had a real challenge where a lot of our assets were coming to end of life, there hadn’t been a major capital expansion in 50-60 years and our customer expectations were changing as well, the expectations of having better service, better information, a better company. So we took a step back, talked to a lot of professionals in the business and took what I think was a bold step to try to get ahead of that trend of modernizing utility, and we are proud to say that we had sort of been at the forefront of that modernization trend.

Tom Raftery: But that’s lot of money…

Peter Gregg: It’s an awful lot of money. And we have spent a lot of time discussing it with our regulator and customers, we have had wonderful regulatory support all the way throughout it, because they see the value of the business cases we put forward, I think the challenge for us now that we are taking a bit of a break from project time is now, how do we leverage all of that spend, all that investment to make sure that we are making better asset management decisions, we are making better investment decisions that we are getting more efficient processes to deliver the work to our customers and having that impact, that positive impact on rates that our customers see.

Tom Raftery: So long term, it should help, at least stabilize the price for a while.

Peter Gregg: It will stabilize the price, I think it will, we are having other pressures too in the Ontario market place outside of our own business but we don’t manage the commodity price, commodity price has been going up substantially and I think customers are saying we don’t really care who manages the price, you have all got to do your own part to keep prices down.

So I think the investment we have made is going to keep us on a flatter trajectory. Our challenge now, what we have given to our staff is to try to keep as flat rate increases as we possibly can and so we are going in for a distribution, we do a transmission at a distribution filing in our business and our challenge in our distribution five year rate case is to keep our average annual increase out at 1%, so less than inflation.

Tom Raftery: Excellent, fantastic! Thanks very much.

Peter Gregg: Great, thank you.

Hydro One’s Peter Gregg talks about modernizing the utility company

SAP’s Geoff Ryder discusses the Utility of Tomorrow contest

Along with several partner companies and universities, SAP launched its Utility of Tomorrow contest recently.

The contest, which is a global one, is aimed primarily at university students. They enter a submission on the Utility of Tomorrow competition website, and if their submission is chosen as one of the winning entries, they are flown to California to work with engineers from SAP to implement their idea! The closing date for submission of entries has been extended to November 29th 2013.

It sounds like a very exciting competition, so I spoke to the organiser of the competition, SAP’s Geoff Ryder to get more information on it.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I am here today with SAP’s Geoff Ryder and we are going to talk about the Utility of Tomorrow contest.

Geoff, can you tell me first of all, what is Utility of Tomorrow contest and what’s the thinking behind it, where did it come from?

Geoff Ryder: Hey, thanks very much Tom and welcome everyone. So, the Utility of Tomorrow contest came about in conversations between our utility team, a sustainability team and our utility customers, who are really struggling to connect with their end-users, end users of electricity, but also in waste management and water utilities. They need to connect to their customers to kind of get them involved in programs and shape their behavior in ways that are sustainable and beneficial.

But a lot of us you know it’s kind of a dull topic, it’s not usually on the top of mind in most customers, a lot of them read their utility bills once or twice a year or just pay them automatically, so not a lot of engagement there, how do we foster that engagement?

Well, we see the university students as really innovative thinkers, who are very involved in digital technology and wise about how to use it and they have innovative ideas, especially as the utility customers of the future, they will be able to provide their innovative ideas. This is a way to get utilities and those folks together.

Tom Raftery: If I am in the university and I have a couple of friends and we have this awesome idea, what do we do, where do we go?

Geoff Ryder: Okay, go ahead and just go to the website, which is… you can go to your favorite search engine and type Utility of Tomorrow Contest and it should take you right to our web page.

Tom Raftery: And the entries?

Geoff Ryder: Right, so the entries themselves say we are looking for maybe a 3 page format that you right yourself like a document and submit it in Word format or a PDF and then, we are looking for may be 800 words and you can go longer if you want, but maybe 1500 words, maybe 6 or 7 pages would be the recommended limit, so that you get the judges all read the entire material.

We welcome diagrams and tables if that would help. But again they are basically 800 words, the key thing is we ask you to describe the entry, a good description of the entry, the value proposition, key activities, resources and partners that are needed to realize the idea.

And then we also like to keep this grounded, something that can actually be realized in next 1 to 3 years. So for that purpose, we’d like a little bit of a business analysis, basic cost information, what are the raw materials that are involved and maybe something about the social benefits or the revenue. This doesn’t have to be for profit enterprise even. It can be even a money losing proposition, but that’s okay as long as the social benefits are great enough to justify it.

Tom Raftery: How does the judging work after that?

Geoff Ryder: Well, we have a distinguished panel of judges from SAP and our utility partners and each one is going to get — it will basically be judged by at least two judges each entry. Then we will — some of them will be selected as winners, some will also be acknowledged as finalists for being high quality.

Tom Raftery: Okay and what are the prizes, what do I get if I am a finalist or if I win?

Geoff Ryder: That’s actually the key to the contest. We worked backwards from the prize, and the prize is to get our utility and SAP engineers in the same room with the winners. And we are going to choose five winning teams, a winning team can be a single person with their idea or a team of two and we are going to fly them to Palo Alto California for a week-long workshop and then we are going to basically realize your idea together with the engineers.

Tom Raftery: What are you guys hoping to get from this and if I am submitting something, is there something in particular where I should be aiming towards?

Geoff Ryder: I think it’s diagnosing in your area what would a challenge for the utility company that you see. Now it can be on the electric side, so the electric power utility is struggling with uh, integrating green energy into the grid, smart appliances in the home, maybe connecting to them and having behavioral modification on, on that. Electric vehicles, how do you innovate electric vehicles into your community, in the utilities and some parts of the world need to take a lead on that on the infrastructure too.

And then also water and waste management, there are problems in water use, tracking it, disposing properly of waste, I mean there are a lot of topics.

So, basically diagnosing their problems that you see and then offering an innovative solution that might involve the mobile app and that mobile app would connect the utility to the consumer, it might be a Gamified app where you get points for doing something sustainable.

Tom Raftery: Great! Geoff, that’s been fantastic. Thanks for joining us today.

Geoff Ryder:

SAP’s Geoff Ryder discusses the Utility of Tomorrow contest

City of Cape Town’s AnneMarie Groenewald on AMI and efficiency to ensure a reliable supply

At the 2013 SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, I met up with AnneMarie Groenewald who works for the City of Cape Town’s Electricity Services Department in South Africa. AnneMarie gave a talk at the event about their SAP AMI implementation. I caught up with AnneMarie after her talk and asked her how it benefited the city, especially in light of the rolling blackouts which had been an issue in South Africa in years past.

Here’s a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, I am here at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, I’m with.

AnneMarie Groenewald: AnneMarie Groenewald, I’m from the city of Cape Town in South Africa, I’m the head of the ERP Revenue team looking after the SAP implementation for that part.

Tom Raftery: Okay, so you’ve got a few interesting challenges in South Africa. For years, you’ve been having rolling blackouts and these kinds of things, what are you doing to address such kinds of issues?

AnneMarie Groenewald: It’s because we had those rolling blackouts and we only have one utility company, providing electricity for the whole of South Africa, there’s actually now legislation in place that we must manage the electricity consumption better and we must inform our customers of the electricity consumption.

So now we have implemented SAP AMI solution. It’s automated meter reading interface, it gives the customers, they can login through a web portal where they can see their consumption on a half hourly basis, and it entitles them to manage the electricity better, may be they also decide they want to use the electricity more off peak, so that they can get a better rate as well.

Tom Raftery: Interesting. So you were saying earlier that there is not just the ability for them to see their own information but there is also tariff comparisons that they can do.

AnneMarie Groenewald: Yes, the tariff comparison that they can see their use, most of the electricity or they can swift — using most of the electricity may be at night so that they can have an off peak tariff that is more favorable then during peak hours when everybody is using electricity.

Tom Raftery: And how is that helping with the rolling blackouts?

AnneMarie Groenewald: Well, at the moment, since 2008-2009 rolling blackouts are under control. I don’t think it’s yet because of this implementation but people are just more aware because the governments are also making us a lot of aware publicly of electricity usage.

Tom Raftery: And are there efficiency programs rolled out as well?

AnneMarie Groenewald: Yes, they constantly — there is media releases, that’s on the radio constantly telling people replace your bulbs with bulbs that use less electricity, switch off your geyser during peak hours and that’s how there is public awareness is going out a lot. And I think people are actually adhering into it.

Tom Raftery: Okay and how does this program that you’ve rolled out, how does it compare with the rest of Africa?

AnneMarie Groenewald: At the moment, when we implemented, we are the only one in Africa that implement this AMI solution. There are other municipalities in South Africa looking at it but they are not live yet.

Tom Raftery: And you’ve just rolled out in Cape Town so far, how long before it gets rolled to the rest of South Africa?

AnneMarie Groenewald: That depends on all the other municipalities, because they are all independently. So we’ve done it, at the moment we are only at the large power uses and the big customers, we will still get to the normal households.

Tom Raftery: AnneMarie that’s been great, thanks for talking to us today.

AnneMarie Groenewald: It’s a pleasure, thank you.

City of Cape Town’s AnneMarie Groenewald on AMI and efficiency to ensure a reliable supply

Metropolitan Utilities District Mark Doyle on improving utilities customer service

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach the Metropolitan Utilities District (MUD), a gas and water utility in Omaham Nebraska won a prize for the best mid-size utility in terms of SAP implementations. I caught up with MUD CIO Mark Doyle after the prize giving ceremony and asked him to tell me a little about how his project improved his customer’s service.

See below for a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we’re at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach and I’m here with —

Mark Doyle: Mark Doyle.

Tom Raftery: And Mark you are?

Mark Doyle: I am the Chief Information Officer at the Metropolitan Utilities District in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tom Raftery: Okay, and what do the Metropolitan Utilities District do?

Mark Doyle: We’re a public utility in the Mid-West and we serve about 225,000 households in around the Omaha area. We provide natural gas and safe, reliable, economical, drinking water.

Tom Raftery: Very good.

Mark Doyle: I always have to put that in there.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. So you received a prize yesterday. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Mark Doyle: Yeah, we were recognized for the best mid-size utility in terms of SAP implementations. We are very honored to receive that recognition and appreciate being here and networking with that tag on our back, it’s been a very nice thing to have here in this large group of utilities.

Tom Raftery: And what was the prize for?

Mark Doyle: We recently upgraded our SAP systems to be fully integrated with the full ERP, CRM, CRB suite of products. There was a multi-year project that culminated and went live on June 3rd of this year.

Tom Raftery: Okay and how will that benefit your organization and your customers?

Mark Doyle: Well in Omaha, Nebraska the public utilities might not be viewed as state-of-the-art but we want to dispel that myth. We are now in a position with these tools to be as good as anyone in terms of customer service and effective delivery of these public services which are so essential to the lives of the folks living in our area.

Tom Raftery: And what kind of things will it help your customers do?

Mark Doyle: Well, number one a mobile work force that’s real time enabled to the back office can effectively serve our customers, make it a safer environment; we have locators, make it a more genuine environment, we have collectors out unfortunately shutting people off, so we think we can more genuinely serve our customer base, that’s on the mobility side.

Our customer service center will be moving toward all of the things that any customer service center does. I’ll use Amazon as an example. We should be able to be as good as any customer service center. Everybody wants things quickly, effectively and accurately and even more than that, they want things in many different ways.

So we think it’s all about serving our customers and running as effectively and as effectively as possible.

Tom Raftery: And are you interacting with customers now using social media?

Mark Doyle: Yes, we are. We have a website that rolled out right along with our implementation in June, a new website, we now have a Facebook presence and a Twitter presence and that’s been a very good experience for us and for our customers that choose to use that channel.

Tom Raftery: Super. Mark thanks a million for talking to us.

Mark Doyle: Thank you, very much.

Metropolitan Utilities District Mark Doyle on improving utilities customer service

PSE&G’s Tracy Kirk talks SAP HANA and Twitter for Utilities

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, Tracy Kirk, New Jersey gas and electricity utility company PSE&G‘s Manager of Customer Technology gave two talks. The first presentation was about the successful implementation of their SAP HANA project, and the second detailed how PSE&G stepped up customer communications via Twitter in the wake of to Superstorm Sandy.

I caught up with Tracy after her talks and asked her to give a brief synopsis of her learnings.

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV, we’re at the SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach and I’m here with —

Tracy Kirk: Tracy Kirk from PSE&G.

Tom Raftery: Tracy what do you do for PSE&G?

Tracy Kirk: I am the manager of customer technology there, so we try and bring innovative technology solutions to bear for our customers.

Tom Raftery: Okay, roughly what size is PSE&G?

Tracy Kirk: We are about two and half million homes in New Jersey, homes and business in New Jersey.

Tom Raftery: Now, you participated in a number of talks at the event here. One of them was about SAP HANA. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Tracy Kirk: Sure. HANA is in memory processing and utilities collect a lot data very high volume, high velocity data and we need to be able to get at it and use it in new ways. HANA is a tool that will allow us to do it and we’ve begun a use case to bring that to bear, to really help the company finances which in turn help all the rate payers and all our customers by helping — make sure that revenue gets billed.

Tom Raftery: So the used case that you were talking about this morning, it was something of the order of a procedure that you were doing. You used to take 26 hours and now it’s taking 60 seconds.

Tracy Kirk: Right. In order to indentify the information necessary to go after this segment of usage, that the company currently isn’t billing. In order to find that, right now, it takes that long to run those queries and sometimes frankly they time out. So we’re not really using the system to its full capabilities. What HANA will do is take all of that data extraction and all of that processing, all of the engine under the hood and turn around and deliver that in 93 seconds instead of 26 hours.

Tom Raftery: That’s an impressive speed bump.

Tracy Kirk: It really is, it’s a beautiful thing to see it come to life after hearing about its promise.

Tom Raftery: And the other talk you gave was around social media, you’ve been using social media?

Tracy Kirk: We have, we started long before Hurricane, Sandy, but during that storm, we found really a whole new level of conversation with the customers and stakeholders in our service territory. People who wanted to find a new way to connect with us during a very unusual event.

Tom Raftery: And the advent of social media for utilities is only starting to kick off now I think, so you are really at the leading edge of this.

Tracy Kirk: Yeah, there are peers of ours who are doing really fine work in different areas. Some of them who are doing a lot of wonderful work with videos, with blogging, with Facebook apps. We started with Twitter and that’s where, where a lot of our effort is gone. We are on Facebook now and we are going into some new areas, so we have a lot of sharing and learning we can do from each other.

Tom Raftery: That’s been fantastic Tracy thanks a million.

Tracy Kirk: Thanks.

PSE&G’s Tracy Kirk talks SAP HANA and Twitter for Utilities

Uses of SAP HANA for Utility companies

At the recent SAP for Utilities event in Huntington Beach, SAP’s Stefan Wolf gave a presentation about SAP’s HANA in-memory database. I caught up with Stefan afterwards and talked to him about some of the ways HANA can be used by utility companies.

Here’s a transcription of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! We’re here at the SAP for Utilities event and I have with me Stefan Wolf from SAP. Stefan you gave a talk yesterday, where you were talking about the use of HANA for utilities. Can you give me a little synopsis of that talk?

Stefan Wolf: Absolutely!. Thank you Tom for giving me this opportunity. I think utilities these days are challenged by a lot of different requirements. There is lots of data coming through new channels like smart metering, smart grid, social networks. It’s pressure from the regulators, pressure from the public to get more information in real time, whether it’s a storm situation or just about my current bill, it’s mounting.

So they need the possibility to answer these in real time and manage the data and we have customers who are actually doing this today, with SAP tools. For example, one utility is using an SAP HANA solution to improve business process for energy settlement and they have achieved an improvement of a hundred times faster by moving certain steps of that process outside to a HANA box including the replication of the data.

So by just using HANA, they are now able to manage even when all their customers have smart meters and still running to a settlement process in the allowable timeframe. Other customers, for example have used HANA to optimize a collection process, by building a data mod in HANA to collect the information about the customers, the financial information, the surrounding information about the customers to now be much more, on time and on top of the information, and do the correction way more efficiently than before with manual error prone process.

Tom Raftery: Is there any customer facing technology using HANA?

Stefan Wolf: Yeah absolutely, so one example is a utility is using HANA to support their online portal, basically allow the customers to do bill simulations, and they draw their smart meter data from the back end system, from the legacy system into HANA and then run into HANA say, as a billing algorithm and within less than 4 seconds of overall process of getting the data and billing the data the customer sees a stimulated bill on the online portal. So it’s literally in real time.

Tom Raftery: Stefan I’ve heard that, there are data compression technologies in HANA as well, which reduce the size of the database how does this work?

Stefan Wolf: Absolutely, so we have one example, where a customer was using their business warehouse as a test case basically for moving into HANA and it had over 20 terabytes of data in their actual business warehouse and they moved it into HANA and it ended up with less than 700 GB. That was possible but not needing quite a bit of the data which business warehouse typically needs because of the time it takes to load the data from the source system, or they’ve staging areas and so forth. And you have the segregation areas in business warehouse because it takes times to build those cubes. All of that is not necessary in HANA.

So you start with much less data to begin with and then in addition you have the compression factor HANA allows was which is typically between 4.0 and 5.0 to 1, so that reduced it so significantly from over 20 TB down to 700 GB.

Tom Raftery: So of course that makes it even faster again to analyze the data.

Stefan Wolf: Exactly, so now we have less data to store which you can analyze faster and you have an in memory which again improved the time. So between our previous in memory technology, business warehouse accelerator, which was although based on in-memory, but specifically only for BW available. And now HANA, we see even there an improvement of over five times of the reporting time and we see even 50 — effect of 50 increase of the performance compared to conventional business warehouse means.

Tom Raftery: Well, impressive. Stephan, that’s been great. Thanks very much.

Uses of SAP HANA for Utility companies