Exelon is betting on big data and advanced analytics to transform how it delivers power to 10 million customers in 6 states.
The electric company has teamed up with GE to deploy the latter’s Predix software solutions across its utility service areas. The initiative calls for harvesting data from smart meters and grid sensors, and applying predictive analytics to fix equipment before it blows out or send repair crew during storms – before damages occur.
“When it comes to storm restoration, it will enable the utilities to become more surgical in prepositioning crews in advance of weather events – saving time, money, improving customer satisfaction and enhancing safety for employees,” said Brian Hurst, VP & Chief Analytics Officer at Exelon Utilities. “We are just beginning to scratch the surface on the value of analytics, and when we look at the Internet of Things, it becomes increasingly important for the future.”
The multi-year contract, signed two months ago, was the result of an exhaustive process where Exelon evaluated many analytic providers and platforms before selecting the GE team.
“In working with Exelon, we have refined and created new applications that help drive efficiency, reliability and profitability that can be scaled to solve industry-wide challenges around the world,” said Steven Martin, Chief Digital Officer of GE Power’s Energy Connections business.
Exelon is acutely aware that change management and culture shift is key to driving the initiative and achieving desired outcomes.
“What keeps me up at night is the cultural aspect of IoT analytics implementation and adoption, ‘How do we transform to become a data-driven organization,’” Hurst said.
Exelon Utilities has more than 20,000 employees, so there’ll be heavy lifting – but both the company and employees including engineers, operators, and technicians understand their jobs may evolve over time as decisions are made based on data and not on tradition.
“As app developers on Predix get employees to think about their operations differently and build their confidence in predictive modelling, I expect there will be an adoption curve for embracing new ways of working.” Hurst said. “We will be helping employees become the digital workers of the future.”
The Predix apps will use a whole range of data, from weather to asset to area conditions, to predict when and where a power outage might occur. The utility will see real-time reports on the health of equipment, say transformers, and repair or replace proactively before any failures occur. Exelon can then recover faster from the effects of storms or other incidents, improving overall service reliability. Or at least, that’s the thinking.
“We are constantly looking at how the utility future is evolving,” Hurst said. “Back in 2014, we knew we needed to develop analytics capability backed by business and operational intelligence.
“We looked at what other industries and utilities were doing, what was the state of analytics in the marketplace, etc. to determine the right approach for us,” Hurst said. “We also continue to monitor evolving regulatory strategies including New York’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’ and Illinois’ exciting new ‘NextGrid Utility of the Future’ to better understand how we could engage with analytics.”
Working with GE, Exelon will develop apps based on Predix to improve system wide reliability in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania through its Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco subsidiaries.
Hurst didn’t reveal the price tag, saying “I can’t talk much about our investment, we built an internal business case but if the benefits weren’t there, then we wouldn’t do it.”