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.

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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