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