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Utilities that are planning a Smart Grid transformation are grappling with an intricate and multifaceted initiative. Some are just beginning the journey, while others have invested significant time and funding into developing a workable strategy. Making this change is daunting, but a strategic roadmap can enable a smoother migration.
Assess business drivers
Wherever utility operators may be in the Smart Grid planning process, aligning investments with the topmost business drivers is the place to start. This approach has proven effective in gaining support from internal and external stakeholders. The primary business drivers include:
• Regulatory environment
• System capacity, expense, and reliability
• Generation resources
• Media and customer involvement
Assess technology needs
A Smart Grid roadmap must also factor in various new technologies that impact a utility’s operating environment and, in some cases, enable interaction between utilities and their customers. Utility operators should assess their existing technologies and determine where they need to implement or 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.
Image 1: The 5-step approach provides cost-effective directions that deliver Smart Grid success.
Step 1: Define internal roles and responsibilities of utility management and staff in building the roadmap. Key roles include executive sponsors, business leaders, subject matter experts, project manager, regulatory liaison, customer liaison, and internal advocate/communicator. This team will compile information, determine the business drivers and priorities, document the roadmap, and communicate with stakeholders.
Step 2: Conduct workshops to discuss drivers and requirements. Workshops enable teams to determine the utility’s current status, to brainstorm requirements, and to arrive at the necessary steps for drafting a roadmap document. 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. The best approach is to find a balance between components that a utility needs most and those that can provide a quick return. Based on specific business drivers, utilities should estimate costs and evaluate benefits to build a financial analysis.
Step 4: Document the plan. To develop a Smart Grid roadmap document, identify the key participants and stakeholders and summarize workshop findings and the business case. The 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. Teams that are developing a Smart Grid roadmap should realize the importance of communicating across their organizations throughout the process to help overcome the typical “silo” structure that often separates generation, transmission, distribution, and operational groups. This may require improving communication methodologies.
Plan for evolving needs
Each utility faces unique challenges – so there isn’t a single planning solution. But following the 5-step approach will ensure a clear roadmap that will help stakeholders understand 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.