Inspiring a Day of Generosity with #GivingTuesday

At the core of Itron’s mission and purpose as a company is a commitment to resourcefulness and community impact. We believe that the way we manage energy and water will define this century, so we are passionate about engaging with communities to improve energy-water literacy, encourage conservation and inspire future leaders in our industry.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs are fast becoming the most collaborative pathway to creating positive change in the communities where we live, work and play. Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media, is another opportunity for companies to engage their employees, partners and customers through the power of purpose.

The generosity of our employees makes our CSR program what it is today. Our employees embody Itron’s mission of resourcefulness through volunteering, personal giving and mentoring the next generation. At Itron, we are proud to support our employees’ generosity through our employee giving program, Itron Gives. We provide paid volunteer time, match employee donations and create opportunities for community engagement around the world.

Now, more than ever, organizations have a vital role to play in building safe, resilient communities. Join us today in creating a more resourceful world.


Rooftop Solar and Short-Term Models – Advanced Methods

Under a California Energy Commission (CEC) study, Itron evaluated alternative approaches to incorporating forecasts of behind-the-meter solar PV generation into short-term load forecast models. In the forecasting group’s last Brown Bag of the year, we will present the findings from a follow-on CEC study on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at noon Pacific time.

Register for this free Brown Bag and other forecasting events at www.itron.com/forecastingworkshops.


Improving Efficiency and Accuracy with Forecasting in the Cloud

In today’s increasingly dynamic energy market, it is important for utilities to have access to accurate and timely energy forecasts. Whether forecasts are for five minutes or for several months ahead, it is critical for utilities to be able to anticipate grid operations.

Recently, Itron deployed its Forecast-as-a-Service (FaaS) offering for Energy New England (ENE), which provides a range of support services for over 24 New England municipal electric utilities that serve a combined peak demand of more than 1,200 MW. ENE utilizes Itron’s solution to reduce the time and effort required to generate load forecasts and to account for solar generation.

Based in Mansfield, Massachusetts, ENE has collaborated with Itron for nearly 20 years with overwhelming success. To meet its growing and diverse customer portfolio and the penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar, energy storage, and electric vehicle programs, the utility turned to Itron to make daily forecasting simpler. With Itron managing forecasts through its cloud-based solution, ENE has dramatically reduced the time spent generating forecasts and integrating DERs.

The Itron team of experienced consultants maintains and monitors the system’s operation, forecasts and statistical models. We are also responsible for delivering the forecasting managed service, which is configured in a cloud-based solution running on Microsoft® Azure and directly transmits data files to ENE’s network once per day. ENE has access to an interactive web portal that allows users the ability to view, edit and export forecasts, which are updated each hour.

Itron’s services and support have allowed ENE to free staff up to perform other tasks by cutting the time needed to generate accurate forecasts. The solution has also equipped ENE to incorporate new municipal customers quickly, giving them a higher level of service and control.

Watch a short demo and let us help you implement FaaS at your organization at www.itron.com/forecasting.


Public Utilities Fortnightly Recognizes Itron Among Top Innovators in 2019

This November, Public Utilities Fortnightly released its Top Innovators 2019, and recognized the collaboration between Itron, New Cosmos and Con Edison as one of the top innovations of 2019. This year’s Top Innovators recognized nearly 140 innovators from 46 qualifying nominations.

Itron, New Cosmos and Con Edison collaborated to develop and deploy nine thousand battery-powered smart natural gas detectors in New York. The smart devices were developed by New Cosmos with Itron’s Milli™ 5 battery-optimized communications module and operate on Con Edison’s Industrial IoT network from Itron.

Operating on Itron’s secure, standards-based network, the natural gas detector sounds an audible alarm if it detects natural gas in the atmosphere where the device is installed to alert anyone nearby. In the case of a leak, the device will also immediately communicate with the utility, which will respond with a crew(s) and notify the local fire department so they can respond and investigate. The alarm, which includes a voice recording that advises building occupants to evacuate, will continue to sound until the utility silences the unit. Learn more about the deployment in this video.

Itron is honored to be a part of this innovative collaboration with New Cosmos and Con Edison.


Itron Recognized for 20 Years of DLMS Membership

In 1997, Itron was one of three founding members of the Device Language Message Specification (DLMS) user association, an organization created with a mission to establish an interoperable application layer protocol for meter data exchange, facilitating improved business efficiency for utility market players and fostering easier operation of energy markets. At a time of entirely proprietary communications protocols in the metering domain, this step was significant. Companies realized that fully competitive energy markets and widespread deployments of interconnected communicating devices could not be sustained without interoperability.

This week, at European Utility Week, Itron was presented with an award to recognize our 20 years of service and membership in the DLMS user association. We are honored to receive this recognition and look forward to our continued collaboration with the organization.

Since its inception, the DLMS user association has grown to more than 300 members worldwide with over 1,200 DLMS/Companion Specification for Energy Metering (COSEM)-certified device types and several million compliant devices in the field.*

Itron has more than 40 certified DLMS/COSEM device types and supports many more from other vendors in its systems and solutions. Starting with very successful commercial and industrial meters, the support for DLMS/COSEM has since grown to domestic meter types, as the need for more complex metrological functionality and greater volumes of data has arisen.

Itron is committed to helping drive the strategic direction of the association and has benefitted from the credibility, significance and reputation the organization and standards have attained.

To learn more about the DLMS user association, visit www.dlms.com.

* The specifications of the DLMS UA are published as International and European Standards, allowing their global proliferation and recognition by utilities, governments and system integrators. Itron has been an instrumental player in introducing DLMS/COSEM to the U.S. market. With the support of other manufacturers and utilities, the DLMS/COSEM suite of standards have recently been published as American National Standards Institute standards, providing a credible pathway to interoperability for Public Utilities Commissions.


Natural Disasters and Technology for Resiliency

Itron recently released our report on utilities’ current state of disaster preparedness. As many of you have experienced or may already know, disasters seem to be inevitable and are happening with greater frequency. As a community of energy and water providers and suppliers, we have no choice but to prepare for what is coming. While utilities and consumers may feel like the biggest disaster is just around the corner – be it storms or floods, fires or cyber-attacks – the biggest disaster would be failing to prepare.

I found it interesting that when asked about the top barriers to deploying technology, utilities indicated “difficulty prioritizing what to invest in” (33%) and “regulations” (30%). The top investment priorities by utilities to respond to disasters were smart or advanced metering, remote disconnect devices, customer communications systems, outage detection and restoration.

Preparing for and responding to disasters may seem daunting, but thanks to advances in technology, the challenge is not insurmountable. In fact, technology has evolved to the point where it can:

  • Predict potential issues before forecasted disasters arrive
  • Enable greater grid awareness to understand the state of distribution systems
  • Spot and fix issues quickly before they create unsafe conditions—either for communities or utility crews
  • Reduce the need for truck rolls “post storm” to determine pockets of damage

Advanced technology options available to utilities are growing and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications are revolutionizing disaster prediction and response, thereby helping communities increase resiliency and safety during disasters, all while gaining insights that were previously unavailable.

For example, a utility pole sensor can detect if a pole is down, which can lead to safety issues such as a fire. Knowing what poles are down and where is helpful with speeding restoration efforts and can increase response times to those that need attention. Similarly, line sensors can monitor for issues or hazardous situations on the distribution line. Monitoring solutions, such as voltage analysis and distribution transformer monitoring, can evaluate the health of devices on the grid to ensure they aren’t failing, which could create a potential safety issue.

Advanced line sensors in the network can enable utilities to anticipate where problems will develop with visibility into intermittent interference from vegetation, equipment not functioning properly, loose connections or heat buildup in the system. Being able to anticipate or detect where fires might occur, and where damage is detected in the system, allows the utility to de-energize systems and dispatch crews more effectively.

When an earthquake occurs, a natural gas leak can be a likely and dangerous outcome that utilities must be vigilant in monitoring and responding to. With methane detection technologies, a leak can be detected and crews can repair it before it becomes a hazardous situation.

Outage detection helps improve response times with real-time intelligence, allowing utilities to accurately understand the size and extent of an outage and what locations are impacted. This also helps with restoration by validating and continuously updating outage extents.

Smart meters—among one of utilities’ top investment priorities—can aid in natural disaster mitigation. With smart meters, utilities know instantly when the power is out, thanks to built-in intelligence, which can diagnose problems remotely and send an outage alert as soon as it happens.

I think Itron’s report shines a very bright spotlight on the priority of resiliency and the actions and investments that many U.S. utilities have already taken—they will likely pay off with the next flood, storm, wildfire, earthquake or ransomware attack. Infrastructures must be as future-proofed as possible to help alleviate damage from natural disasters and respond as effectively as possible once they hit.


Itron LAM Awarded for Innovation

More than ever, utilities and communities are looking for sustainable and efficient solutions to better serve their customers and conserve resources – and this want isn’t any different for Latin America.

Recently, our team in Latin America (LAM) was recognized by Revista Potência (Potency Magazine) in the Software & Apps category for our Streetlight.Vision (SLV), Itron’s central management software for smart cities. The 2019 Power Award publicly recognizes the work of companies and professionals who are developing and implementing technological innovations in the fields of electricity and lighting in the Brazilian market.

SLV reinforces our strategy to help cities achieve digital transformation and deliver more reliable, resilient and resourceful services. By providing a single platform that can monitor, manage and control connected smart city assets, SLV helps cities and communities to improve energy efficiency, optimize system performance, enhance operational efficiency, and streamline integration with existing business process.

We are honored to be recognized for our innovation and commitment to resourcefulness in the LAM region.

This award was delivered to Emerson de Souza, vice president of sales and marketing for Latin America during an event and dinner at the Novotel Expo Center in São Paulo, Brazil.


It’s a DER World, We’re Just Living in It

If you’re reading this and you’re a load forecaster like myself (or know a thing or two about load forecasting), then you are well aware of the challenges associated with load forecasting as penetration levels of distributed energy resources (DER) – especially photovoltaics (PV) – increase across electrical grids. This has been a hot topic for the better part of this decade, and I don’t see it fading away anytime soon. However, if you’re not privy to how DER is creating ripples in the world of load forecasting, allow me to explain.

Just a few years ago, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) issued a ruling and established a working group to investigate what sort of refinements should be made to the interconnection process for DER to ensure that we understand the location of generation capacity connected to the utility grid. The working group determined that:

“Without the use of telemetry”… “the lack of [PV] generation output visibility prevents system operators and engineers from determining the real system load conditions which can inhibit the ability to plan and operate the distribution system.”

And there you go – the term “load masking” was born. Load masking describes this exact situation, and it is this issue of load masking that’s causing so much agita in the world of grid operations and planning.

If you’re sitting there thinking, “But what about smart meters? Can’t they help mitigate this issue?” The short answer is, well, it’s complicated. Smart meters generally have two channels for recording information about electricity flow – a delivered channel, which measures power pulled from the grid, and a received channel, which measures power pushed to the grid. The kicker is that only one of these channels can be nonzero at any given time. So, if the solar panels on your roof are generating 9 kWh, but you’re only using 6 kWh, then the received channel is going to read 3 kWh and the delivered is going to read 0 kWh. Similarly, if your neighbors’ panels are generating 3 kWh but they’re not home to use them, then their smart meter will also read 3 kWh received and 0 kWh delivered.

These are two scenarios in which you and your neighbor have pretty different levels of generation and consumption, but as far as the smart meter is concerned, you’re the same. And unless the solar output is directly metered, the true consumption is masked by what’s generated behind the meter, painting a very incomplete picture of what is actually happening at a delivery point. This throws a massive wrench in our load forecast models because they have been constructed based on a fundamental understanding of how people use electricity!

Earlier this month, I attended the 6th Annual Demand Response & DER World Forum 2019 in San Diego, California, where I gave a short presentation on this topic. During my presentation, I polled the audience to find out how many of them had heard of load masking. The response was overwhelmingly sparse. So if you didn’t know about load masking before reading this awesome blog, you’re in good company.

For me, this was a solid reminder of the importance of forums like this one that give professionals the opportunity to offer perspectives from different sides of the industry. DER technologies are quickly becoming the way of the future, and it’s exciting to understand the ways in which they are helping us to use electricity more efficiently and reduce our carbon footprint. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind how they are impacting the way the grid is planned and operated. After all, it’s a DER world, we’re just living in it. And I’m just trying to forecast in it.


The Importance of Modern-Day Innovation

For those of us who grew up with the Space-time continuum as defined by Dr. Emmett Brown (Doc Brown) in the Back to the Future trilogy, we know that for real innovation to occur, there has to be plutonium, predictable weather and fourth dimensional thinking. But we’re not in 1955, or 1985 for that matter, and plutonium is not available in every corner drugstore as Doc Brown once predicted. So, what does a technology firm need in the 21st century to infuse innovation into everything we do? Opinions of experienced executives and industry experts echo a few themes:

  • Make space and time for innovation
  • Build a culture of experimentation
  • Celebrate innovation

It seems the Space-time connection is still relevant, and even crucial to sustained innovation. Making space for innovative thinking can range from a simple idea wall or virtual comment box to a fully-funded innovation incubator. Organizations often make space for innovation, but fail to make time for innovation. According to Clayton Christensen, the father of Disruptive Innovation, “If you defer investing your time and energy until you see that you need to, chances are it will already be too late.”

SPACE and TIME are essential to take an innovative idea to actual implementation. Once the ideas start flowing, someone has to be able to do the actual work – whether that means investigating a market opportunity, talking to customers about their interests or doing a little development to test a minimum viable product – and it will take time to figure out if, when and how an idea helps the customers and the company.

Building a culture of experimentation means finding ways to ensure that every individual in the entire company can embrace and test innovative ideas, discovery and the development of innovative ideas. It goes unspoken that the day-to-day work of delivering solutions must get done. However, just envision the power and potential that companies could experience if they successfully make time and space for innovative exploration and experimentation interwoven with their deadline and delivery demands.

When organizations invest in and promote a culture that makes space and time for innovation, I suspect the celebration piece will likely take care of itself. Although we may not see DeLoreans traveling through time, there is no doubt we will see new innovations that improve the quality of life for people around the world.


The Self-Generation Incentive Program: Behind-the-Meter Energy Storage Evaluation Results

The Self-Generation
Incentive Program (SGIP) evaluation found that behind-the-meter (BTM) storage
provides tangible benefits – load reduction during system peak hours, customer
bill savings and system-level and localized demand response options. However,
by optimizing for bill savings, the evaluation findings indicate that BTM AES
systems are increasing GHG emissions overall.

Under
current retail rates, the incentives for customers to dispatch AES to minimize
bills are not well aligned with the goals of minimizing utility (and ratepayer)
costs or GHG emissions. We observed that energy storage systems installed at
facilities on TOU rates with demand charges largely ignored the TOU price
differential while prioritizing non-coincident demand charge reduction. Storage
systems were discharged to reduce non-coincident peak, but storage systems do not
wait for off-peak energy pricing to recharge.

There is
a strong relationship between utilization (measured as capacity factor) and
roundtrip efficiency (RTE), which is the total energy discharged from the
system divided by the total energy charged. We observe that the projects with
the highest RTEs also tend to have the highest CFs. This in turn might suggest
that if projects increased their annual capacity factor, the annual RTE would
also increase. While this may be true, we find that even if all parasitic loads
were removed leaving just the influence of single cycle RTE, GHG emissions
would remain positive. We found in examining storage projects participating in
DR programs that a storage system can be utilized identically across days
(i.e., an equal capacity factor), but lead to increases or decreases in
marginal emissions. The timing of charging and discharging in relation to the
marginal emissions on the grid is paramount to just utilizing the system more
often.

SGIP AES
projects represented a combination of standalone projects and projects either
co-located or paired directly with solar PV systems. Our analysis indicated
that AES projects paired with PV were not prioritizing charging from PV. Going
forward, the program administrators have modified SGIP eligibility rules to
encourage AES charging from PV. Projects that are shown to charge from PV will
have priority in a potential lottery. Furthermore, eligibility for investment
tax credits might promote increased pairing of SGIP AES projects with PV or
other renewable generators.

To date,
the SGIP has provided incentives to over 4,000 residential and non-residential
customers representing over 200 MW of storage capacity. As the program
continues to mature and ratepayer dollars are expended to help fund the
program, impact evaluations, like the ones conducted by our team, are critical
exercises in the feedback loop from policy to design to implementation to
policy again. Our findings and conclusions have helped spur new policy
interventions and program design improvements in the SGIP and will hopefully benefit others as BTM storage continues to
generate societal interest and utility programs are being developed to best
capture the benefits of storage as an electric resource.

If you have additional questions, please
contact us at StrategicAnalytics@itron.com.


2019 Benchmarking Survey

The end of October brings something for everyone. Fall foliage for adults, Halloween candy for children and Itron’s Annual Benchmarking Survey results for energy forecasters. While not as colorful as changing leaves or as sweet as candy corn, I believe that the survey is the best part of fall.

Since 2012, Itron has been surveying electric and gas utilities about system growth, forecast accuracy and forecasting characteristics. This year’s survey consists of 73 companies representing almost 2,067 billion kWh of annual electric sales and 1.8 BCF of annual natural gas sales across North America.

While many of this year’s findings continue patterns identified from prior years, three new findings stand out:

  • Residential Average Use. Since Itron’s first survey in 2012, residential average usage has been declining. The decline is supported by energy efficiency standards and continues to be forecasted by most utilities. This year, however, residential customer growth is 1.12% and sales growth is 1.19% resulting in an increase in average usage. While average use growth is close to zero, this first “increase” data point is either an outlier or the beginning of a new trend. Most importantly, this curious result is something to watch in the coming years.
  • Peak Growth. Unlike prior years, peak results are separated between summer peaking and winter peaking utilities. The separation shows that summer peaks are growing faster than winter peaks. Summer peak growth is 1.93% and winter peak growth is 1.12%. In one sense, the growth differential is not surprising since seasonal peaks occur at different times of the day and are driven by different end uses. However, the result underscores the need to capture differing growth rates in our peak models.
  • Prevalence of AMI Data. While forecasting is not the primary use case for installing and collecting AMI data, the data is useful for several forecasting applications. This year, 63% of companies reported access to AMI data with two-thirds of those companies using it for forecasting applications. Among the most significant AMI forecasting applications are sales calendarization, unbilled sales calculation and daily class energy and peak modelling. As more utilities gain access to AMI data, expect to see applications in the areas of daily variance tracking, improved weather response modelling and daily models for budgets.

The 2019 Benchmarking Survey full report was just distributed and is only available to Itron’s Energy Forecast Group members and survey participants. If you want to watch these developing trends and obtain the benchmarking results firsthand, be sure to participate in the survey next year.

The survey will open for responses in February 2020. Contact Paige Schaefer at paige.schaefer@itron.com if you would like to be added to the list to participate. Preliminary results will be presented at the Annual Energy Forecasting Meeting on April 22 – 24 in New Orleans.


Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery—Tackling Our New Reality

Since 1970, the number of disasters worldwide has quadrupled to around 400 a year. In the U.S., The Economist reported: “According to the UN’s disaster-monitoring system, America sits alongside China and India in suffering the greatest number of natural disasters globally between 1995 and 2015.”

I’ll never forget the Loma Prieta earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1989, which I experienced firsthand early in my career in Silicon Valley. Growing up in California, I’d experienced earthquakes before, but this one really scared me. The ground was moving, and you couldn’t walk anywhere; all you could do was take cover. The thing that really struck me was the devasting impact to critical infrastructure. We didn’t have access to electricity, gas, water, phone lines or other critical services. Before this experience, it was easy to take these things for granted, but in that moment, I realized that everything is fragile. It was a life-changing event.

The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters illuminates the critical need for utilities and citizens alike to place a laser focus on disaster planning, response and recovery. Unfortunately, man-made and natural disasters have become the new normal, placing an imperative on preparedness to mitigate casualties, minimize damage to infrastructures that deliver vital services and reduce the enormous costs of disasters to literally everyone within their reach.

Seven years ago, Itron began commissioning independent research to gain insights into what utility executives and consumers think about issues surrounding how energy and water are delivered and used. This year, during Itron Utility Week, we presented our latest body of research, the Itron Resourcefulness Insight Report on Disaster Preparedness.

The report summarizes key findings from a survey of more than 500 consumer utility ratepayers and 300 utility executives across the United States. It reveals perceptions on an array of topics relating to disaster preparation, response and recovery, exposing a shared and heightened worry about a disaster striking today compared to five years ago. The survey also brought to light a significant, conflicting gap across consumers and utilities pertaining to the ability of each group to prepare, respond to and recover from disasters. Some of the most notable findings in Itron’s report include:

  • 87% of consumers said they have been impacted by some type of disaster in the past five years
  • 69% of utility executives and 55% of consumers said they are more worried about a disaster striking them today than they were five years ago
  • 68% of consumers believe the increase in weather-related disasters is a result of climate change
  • Utilities ranked cyber-attacks as their top disaster concern

History has proven that natural disasters expose utilities to financial, physical and reputational damage, underscoring that the way they prepare, respond and recover leads to a true make-or-break moment. According to the report, the top investment priorities by utilities to respond to disasters are smart or advanced metering, remote disconnect devices, customer communications systems, outage detection and restoration.

Utilities can harden their systems in the face of the next disaster by identifying likely hazards, assessing vulnerabilities, calculating outage impacts, determining the steps that they can take now and assessing where further investments are needed. Leading-edge smart technology and sensors can help, such as voltage analysis and outage detection and restoration.

Itron’s report is intended to be a starting place for utilities to modernize their plans and procedures. As a community of energy and water providers and suppliers, we have no choice but to prepare for what is coming. The consequences are too great not to.

To download the report, visit: www.itron.com/resourceful. For more, watch my Itron Utility Week keynote presentation.


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