In a previous post, I mentioned that utilities need a “roadmap to success” for meeting the challenges of a Smart Grid transformation. Making this change is daunting, but strategic planning can make the initiative effective and efficient.
Assess business drivers and technology needs
Aligning investments with the topmost business drivers is a key part of the planning process. Proper planning requires gaining support from internal and external stakeholders. The primary business drivers are the regulatory environment; a system’s capacity, expense, and reliability; generation resources; and how the media and customers interact with a utility.
A Smart Grid roadmap must also factor in various new technologies that can satisfy fluctuating demand, improve resiliency and efficiency, and provide increased interaction between utilities and their customers. Utility operators need to assess their existing technologies and determine where they need to upgrade.
Construct a Smart Grid roadmap: 5-step approach
After a utility gains a high-level view of where it stands in terms of regulatory compliance and infrastructure and integration capacities, it will have a starting point for mapping its journey. The following 5-step approach provides cost-effective, customizable directions for achieving Smart Grid success.
Step 1: Define internal roles and responsibilities of utility management and staff in building the roadmap. A cross-functional team should compile information, determine the business drivers and priorities, document the roadmap, and communicate with stakeholders.
Step 2: Conduct workshops to discuss drivers and requirements. Key areas to cover are smart metering, smart networks, smart operations, and the central integration, communications, security, and business processes.
Step 3: Define priorities through a business case for implementing Smart Grid technologies. Based on specific business drivers, utilities should estimate costs and evaluate benefits to build a financial analysis.
Step 4: Document the plan. A roadmap document should describe business drivers for each project or phase of implementation, include a detailed execution plan, and indicate how and when these steps will affect stakeholders.
Step 5: Communicate. A team that is developing a Smart Grid roadmap should communicate across the organization to help overcome the “silo” structure that typically separates the generation, transmission, distribution, and operational groups of a utility.
Plan for evolving needs
Each utility faces its own unique set of challenges – so there isn’t a single solution. But following the 5-step approach will ensure a clear roadmap that’s useful for stakeholders in understanding the reasons and benefits behind moving to a Smarter Grid.
In addition, as the Smart Grid technology landscape continues to evolve and change, utilities will periodically need to reassess business drivers and available technology, measure progress against the business case and roadmap, and evaluate the effectiveness of communications and use of implemented Smart Grid technologies.
For more details, you can read my white paper, “Developing a Roadmap to a Smarter Utility,” or leave a comment for discussion.