Empowering the Next Generation

I became a Girl Scout when I was 9 years old, and I was an
active volunteer when my two daughters were Girl Scouts. In 2011, I was
fortunate to join the board for Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and North
Idaho, and I currently serve as first vice chair. I know firsthand the value
that Girl Scouts provides to young women, and as the global digital marketing leader
at Itron, I also understand what it’s like to be a woman in a STEM career.

Empowering the next generation of leaders is key to ensuring
Itron’s mission of creating a more resourceful world. Itron is committed to
partnering with organizations like Girl Scouts to help cultivate future leaders
and innovators. Since today is International Women’s Day, it’s a great
opportunity to highlight what you can do to support STEM careers for young
women in our industry.

It is an uphill battle for women pursuing education and a career in STEM. Women make up half of the college-educated workforce, but are significantly underrepresented in STEM industries. Less than 8 percent of mechanical engineers are women and there are relatively few women in fields such as computer and mathematical sciences, chemistry, physics and engineering.

Because of these disparities, it can be intimidating for
young women to pursue STEM. Often, opportunities in STEM fields are difficult
to find, but by bringing resources directly to these girls, they can learn how
fun and challenging it can be.  Through
community partnerships and mentorship opportunities, girls are learning at a
young age that they are capable and equipped to pursue careers in STEM.

Through our corporate headquarters in Liberty Lake,
Washington, Itron is building a partnership with the Girl Scout Council to
provide programs for girls interested in STEM. Since I am still active with
Girl Scouts, it has been a privilege to help usher collaboration between Itron
and Girl Scouts to bring STEM resources to girls in our community.

For example, Itron sponsored several Girl Scouts STEM nights
at a local children’s science museum. The girls who attended were able to earn
Space, Chemistry, Bugs, Robotics and Money badges. The event provided an
opportunity for girls to get hands-on experience with leaders in the community.

Through events like this, mentorships between young women
and leaders in STEM industries are forged. Mentorships are a huge component of
lifting up the next generation of female leaders. Girl Scouts is incredible at
providing mentors for girls, especially those who may not have opportunities
that are easily accessible to others. Through Itron’s partnership with Girl
Scouts, girls have opportunities to be mentored by amazing men and women in
STEM careers.

By watching these young women and reflecting on my career, I
know that if you put in the hard work, you can do anything. I have found so
much joy working with Girl Scouts; they inspire me with their energy and their
drive to become leaders, innovators, developers and activists. By investing
time and putting forth effort, major change can happen. So today, let’s all
make a commitment to encourage the people around us to succeed. Happy
International Women’s Day.

It’s All the Same, Only the Names Will Change

Last year, Itron was contracted by a small utility (about 11,000 customers) to construct a 10-year-ahead load forecast for capacity planning. I was one of the consultants on the project, and as we usually do when building long-term load forecasts for our clients, we employed our Statistically Adjusted End-Use (SAE) framework.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our SAE framework, it’s an approach to long-term load forecasting that combines elements of both pure econometric models and traditional end-use models. The framework integrates the weather and economic drivers of an econometric model with the saturation and efficiency information of an end-use model. The end-use inputs are used to create powerful, structured, explanatory variables that get dropped in the right-hand side of a linear regression equation. Essentially, you get the best of both worlds, and this approach can be used to model monthly sales, energy or peaks.

You can see from the flow chart that an SAE model has three core terms: XCool, XHeat and XOther. These terms are designed to capture the relative impact of cooling, heating and other equipment on electric loads. The diagram below illustrates how these ingredients might be incorporated into a nice model of monthly sales.

The estimated coefficients (a, bc, bh and bo) can be thought of as statistical adjustment parameters that “true-up” the end-use assumptions to the measured energy use.

Aside from all that technical jargon, what’s especially nice about this framework is that no matter how big or small a utility is, this approach is applicable. Every year at our Annual Energy Forecasting meeting, also known as the Energy Forecasting Group (EFG) conference (hosted this year in Boston, April 3-5), we always kick things off with a discussion on the challenges currently facing load forecasters. Invariably, the list includes how to intelligently integrate new technologies and distributed resources into load forecasts and how to disentangle all the underlying drivers to correctly identify trends in use-per-customer. The SAE framework usually helps utilities obtain answers to these tough questions, or at least gets them started in the right direction because it enables them to decouple the impacts of weather, economics and end-uses on electricity consumption.

It is a tried-and-true method employed by a large number of utilities across North America to better understand the true underlying causes of growth, decline or lack thereof in a utility’s service territory. It’s not necessarily a “one size fits all” approach, but it is a “fits all” framework in that it can be tailored to best suit the objectives of a utility. And, needless to say, it definitely helped us build a reasonable long-term forecast for our client.

If this article peaked your interest and you’d like to learn more about our SAE framework, please feel free to reach out. We also host an SAE workshop the day prior to the start of our annual conference. Otherwise, I hope to see you at the meeting!

See the agenda and who is already registered at http://www.cvent.com/d/pbq67d. For more information on Itron’s Forecasting capabilities, click here.

Smarter States, Smarter Communities

Itron President and CEO Philip Mezey recently spoke to the importance of creating smarter communities at two national conferences: the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners (NARUC) winter meeting and the National Governors’ Associations (NGA) winter meeting in Washington, DC.

NARUC is a crowd we know very well – representing our customers’ state economic regulators (e.g. public utility commissions). The significance of their role and impact in our business cannot be understated. Securing a general session panel for Itron’s CEO to share ideas on smart communities, along with the CEO of Exelon Utilities, Anne Pramaggiore and NARUC President Nick Wager, is a direct result of our many years of support and collaboration with NARUC.

At the NGA winter meeting, Philip spoke on a panel with Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte, that was moderated by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive. During this fireside chat, the executives shared best practices and the group discussed a vision for smarter states built on solutions that can help governors transform how government interacts with citizens and businesses. This was the first time an Itron CEO has presented in front of the nation’s governors.

In 2018, NGA launched its Smarter States, Smarter Communities initiative, which is designed to educate, accelerate and replicate efforts by states across the nation. Governors have significant convening authority to bring the right parties to the table to create smart communities that work for the greater good, a vision that Itron is proud to sponsor.

Itron is leveraging intelligent technology to connect people with data to create smarter communities and reduce the impact of urbanization. Technology can unlock the power of smart communities, but funding and cost recovery challenges can create headwinds in multi-jurisdictional environments. Public-private partnerships are one collaborative model that have been used to build multi-purpose infrastructure projects across a range of jurisdictions.

As government officials and regulators face increasing pressure to achieve sustainable growth and cost-effectively build resilient infrastructure, these high-profile speaking engagements enhance Itron’s position as a thought leader in the space.

Bringing Innovation to Life: Caltech’s FLOW Rocket Fund

Itron is proud to be a corporate sponsor of the FLOW Rocket Fund at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which is now accepting applications for 2019. The Rocket Fund provides financial and entrepreneurial support to help innovators bring their technology to life.

Startups engaged in cleantech and sustainability-related innovation are encouraged to apply. Entrepreneurial mentoring and financial support ranging from $25,000 to $75,000 is awarded annually to undergraduate and graduate university students as well as recent graduates to help them transform commercially promising ideas into viable prototypes. Innovations around energy efficiency, demand response, smart grid, energy storage, renewables and data analytics are some of the areas supported by the Rocket Fund.

The 2018 award recipients included Antora Energy (energy storage), Brimstone Energy (clean hydrogen), Fullmoon Sensors (gas sensing) and ETC Solar. Supporting incubators like the Rocket Fund gives Itron important visibility into university research and academic breakthroughs, insights into new growth opportunities, early identification of promising new applications, services and technologies, and exposure to new business models.

Innovative ideas come from many sources including employees, customers, vendors, partners and incubators such as Caltech’s FLOW Rocket Fund. The Rocket Fund is one resource that Itron utilizes to gain valuable insights that might benefit the company and identify new business opportunities outside our core business areas.

As an entrepreneur-in-residence at Itron Idea Labs, I serve as an advisor and Itron’s representative on the Rocket Fund’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). I am joined by many of Itron's California-based utility partners on the Rocket Fund TAC, including PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric, SoCalGas, LACI (the Itron-supported Los Angeles Cleantech Accelerator), Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and Southern California Edison.

For more information on the Rocket Fund, click here.

Capped vs. Uncapped Degree Days

In energy modeling, we often utilize spline variables to capture the non-linear relationship between consumption and temperature. These variables typically take the form of Heating Degree Days (HDD) and Cooling Degree Days (CDD). In the simplest case, a CDD variable evaluates to a positive value when temperatures exceed a critical breakpoint, while it returns a 0 otherwise. Similarly, an HDD variable evaluates to a positive value when temperatures are less than a critical breakpoint, while it returns a 0 otherwise.

AvgDB = Average Drybulb Temperature
d = date

In this example, the critical break point is 65: temperatures above 65 return positive CDD values, while temperatures below 65 return positive HDD values. Of course, 65 degrees is not necessarily the point above which cooling starts and below which heating starts—this is for illustrative purposes and these points may differ based on geography and other factors.

To extend this idea, we create multiple CDD and HDD variables, each of which have different critical breakpoints. This allows the model to capture a different weather response at different temperatures. For example:

These are ‘open-ended’ or ‘non-capped’ degree days. CDD65 returns a positive value for all temperatures above 65. CDD75 returns a positive value for all temperatures above 75. Both CDD65 and CDD75 return positive values at temperatures above 75. The following table evaluates the two CDD variables at three different temperatures: below 65 degrees, between 65 and 75, and above 75.

By way of contrast, we can create ‘capped’ degree days, which include a ceiling on their value. The following two equations are alternate yet mathematically equivalent specifications:

These two equations evaluate as follows:

  1. At temperatures below 65, the equations return 0.
  2. At temperatures between 65 and 75, the equations return a value between 0 and 10.
  3. At temperatures above 75, the equations return 10.

To capture the effect of temperatures above 75, we will need another variable. The highest CDD variable must remain ‘open ended’ to capture all possible temperatures above the breakpoint. In other words, this variable is specified identically to the uncapped version.

The following table evaluates the two CDD variables at three different temperatures: below 65 degrees, between 65 and 75, and above 75.

In this simple example, the only difference between the values in Table 1and Table 2 is the value for the first CDD at 76 degrees. In the uncapped version, CDD65 evaluates to 11 and it evaluates to 10 in the uncapped version.

This raises the following question: does it matter if I use capped or non-capped degree days in my model?

To answer this question, we can evaluate two daily energy models. The models include a constant term, a trend, two CDD variables and two HDD variables:

The following figure presents the coefficients from each of the two models, with the non-capped degree days on the left and the capped degree days on the right. The first thing to observe is that the coefficients are the same for the constant term, the trend variable, CDD65 and HDD60. However, the action happens in the extreme degree-day variables.

In the uncapped model, the effect of the extreme degree days also incorporates the effects of the less extreme values. In this example, temperatures above 75 are incorporated in both the CDD65 and CDD75 variable, wherein the coefficient on CDD75 represents the marginal effect of those observations. That means the net effect of a temperature above 75 is the sum of the coefficient for CDD65 and CDD75. Similarly, the effects of the HDD50 also incorporates the effects of the HDD60.

In the uncapped model, the sum of the coefficients on CDD65 and CDD75 is 25,571.0, which is exactly equivalent to the coefficient on the CDD75 in the capped model. Similarly, the sum of the coefficients on the HDD60 and HD50 variables is 7,817.7, which is exactly equivalent to the coefficient on the HDD50 in the capped model.

There are a few observations:

  • The remainder of the coefficients are identical.
  • The model statistics are identical in the two specifications.
  • These results occur in monthly models as well.

There are times, particularly with monthly models, where the uncapped degree days—primarily the extreme values—will be statistically insignificant. This occurs because there is collinearity between the degree-day variables. If there is concern about the optics of including insignificant variables in the model (e.g. from management or regulatory oversight), the capped degree days provide a solution, as they will typically be highly significant. Rest assured however, the results will be identical.

The takeaway is that you can use whichever approach you prefer – with impunity.

Feel free to download the associated MetrixND file to play with on your own.

Be sure to check out our forecasting website for all your forecasting needs at www.itron.com/forecasting.

DistribuTECH Insights: Blockchain in Energy and Intelligent Streetlights

The last day of DistribuTECH 2019 last week prompted an engaging discussion about the impact of IoT and blockchain on current and future energy delivery models. With a rapidly evolving technology landscape, today’s utility industry is becoming increasingly complex on all fronts. As a result, we are starting to see an interrelationship between emerging grid architectures to support integration, IoT and network architectures that reinforce distributed computing in the grid, and blockchain 101 for energy systems.

During a breakout session on “The Impact of IoT and Blockchain on Current and Future Energy Delivery Models,” Jim Ogle, senior manager of network engineering at Avista Utilities, provided a utility’s perspective on how disruptive technologies like blockchain and smart contracts will play a role in evolving traditional utility business and service delivery models. The conversation kicked off around transformation and disruption in the industry. Ogle noted there is a confluence of influences coming together to really steer us in this new direction, and a core part of that is the realization and acceptance that we need to operate our businesses and consume our resources in a more sustainable manner.

“The environmental forces for us are a significant driver for looking to do things differently. If you look at decarbonization, the adoption of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs), and the electrification of transportation, those things are all coming together to have us rethink how we provide energy to customers and how they want to consume that energy.”

Those influences are also driving new business models, creating new markets and new opportunities, and changing the way energy is delivered. The need for increased security is driving new advances for technologies like blockchain, which is accelerating the ability for us to recognize other drivers for change.

A common theme throughout DistribuTECH was how utilities are now thinking about products and services as more than just the generation, transport and metering of energy. They are taking a customer-centric view of how they move forward in the face of customers’ changing expectations.
The grid can provide more choices for how consumers are going to consume energy. In order to accomplish this, Ogle said there needs to be more awareness. He predicts there is ultimately going to be a tiered framework of coordination for DERs, asserting utilities need to have intelligence out there at the edge to offer local choices so that customers can have energy where they need it and how they want it.

With distributed intelligence, devices need to talk to each other, which relates back to IoT. The grid, IoT and distributed intelligence are all coming together to have a systematic effect on this new energy ecosystem, tying together these different technology forces and physical forces.

Ogle went on to discuss the importance of security and how blockchain will play a role. He described blockchain as a distributed, immutable ledger technology that enables shared trust and transparency. “In the old world of banking, you had a centralized bank you would grant trust to manage your account and they would create a ledger to keep track of debits and credits.” With blockchain, Ogle said you are distributing that ledger to all these different nodes that are participating on that chain. And through a combination of traditional cyber security, public key/private key transactions, you get ensured trust as these peer-to-peer transactions take place, and everyone has a ledger or record of those transactions. There is a variety of things that can fit this model in the energy industry as we start thinking about the distributed grid.

Ogle provided a use case example about Avista’s micro-transactive grid project where they have created a smart city pilot area in its university district in Spokane. Avista has many different DERs serving multiple buildings and customers. They have batteries, solar, building management systems and metering. In trying to optimize the use of DERs while also providing a grid-optimal solution, Avista believes better results can be achieved for all parties involved if they were coordinating together, rather than being independent and trying to optimize alone.

Part of Avista’s project is to start exploring peer-to-peer energy transactions where they would have a blockchain that is operating a node in the microgrid controller, a node in the building management system or a node on the AMI meters. “These nodes can start working on transacting energy out of smart contracts that say if this event occurs, I want to switch from consuming energy from this battery device over there. The direction is to implement this on the blockchain.”

We learned that transactive energy, basic authentication and authorization are all opportunities for blockchain use cases. Another example of using blockchain in a different way is to ensure the security of the data that is being exchanged between the configuration data and the edge devices on the grid.

This panel provided great insight into the projected impacts of disruptive technology trends and how they can be harnessed to ensure a pathway of innovation towards enabling our next-generation intelligent grids and distributed energy ecosystems.

In another session, we heard from Okechukwu Chika, principal project manager for grid modernization within ComEd’s Smart Grid & Technology Department. Chika led an engaging session on intelligent streetlights as the foundation for smart cities. He educated the crowd on ComEd’s pilot smart streetlight program. The six-year deployment, expected to be completed in 2023, covers the conversion of all 140,000 ComEd-owned “cobra-head” style streetlights to smart LED fixtures.

The smart functionality of each LED fixture head is seated with a smart node. ComEd has deployed smart nodes on its streetlights using Itron’s NIC (networks interface card) to communicate on the Itron network, which allows for real time on/off control of streetlights and dims lights to less than 100 percent power on a set schedule.

Chika said ComEd experienced many benefits from adding intelligence to their streetlights, one being improved response time to outages. Before, the utility was able to detect outages if a customer told them or if they drove by and saw that the light was out.

“We use Itron’s Streetlight Vision (SLV) software to control and monitor our smart streetlights. It produces streetlight outage tickets in real-time with precise streetlight locations, allowing us to respond faster and be more efficient with the crews we send out.”

Itron will connect and manage up to 140,000 municipal smart streetlights across ComEd’s service territory, leveraging Itron’s multi-application IPv6 networking platform that ComEd is using for a variety of smart grid applications. This initiative will accelerate municipal lighting modernization and smart city development in northern Illinois.

Stand by for more updates on ComEd’s smart streetlight program as it sets the new standard for streetlights and advances ComEd’s efforts to transform the electric system serving 70 percent of Illinois!

Itron Idea Labs at the Cleantech Open Global Forum

I recently represented Itron Idea Labs at the Cleantech Open Global Forum held in Los Angeles at LACI, the Itron-sponsored Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. With a decade-long track record, the Cleantech Open is the world’s largest accelerator of early-stage clean and renewable technology companies.

At this year’s event, 15 semi-finalists were selected from the 100 cleantech startups that participated in year-long accelerator programs operated by CTOs at eight North America regional accelerators and their international affiliates. In the end, Radical Plastics bested the other finalists — Sanos Nutrition, Sepion Technologies, Social Solar, South 8 Technologies and YouSolar — to win the $50,000 grand prize. Addressing the global environmental plastics pollution crisis, Radical Plastics has developed an exciting technology for the manufacture of cost-effective, ecologically-friendly, soil biodegradable plastics.

A runner-up, Sepion Technologies, has developed a promising platform membrane technology for lithium ion batteries that overcomes the shortcomings of conventional ceramic membrane technologies (scalability, power density and cost) thus enabling cost-effective electric vehicles (EVs) with a 400-mile range as well as grid-scale battery storage. Targeting transportation, grid storage and aerospace applications, South 8 Technologies has created an innovative Liquefied Gas Electrolyte chemistry for electrochemical energy storage (EES) devices including lithium batteries and electrochemical capacitors. Such EES solutions will be critical for the efficient and reliable storage of energy generated from renewable resources such as solar and wind. ESS also holds the promise of delivering the performance, reliability and efficiency essential to drive the growth of the EV and portable electronics industries.

Based on the creativity, passion and commitment demonstrated by these Cleantech Open startups, the future of both the cleantech industry and the utilities sector seems bright—and Itron Idea Labs is excited to be part of the conversation!

Leveraging a Waterfall Approach to Explain the Load Forecast

Our first brown bag seminar of the year is entitled “Leveraging a Waterfall Approach to Explain the Load Forecast”. This session introduces a methodology to develop the story which underlies the load forecast in a proactive manner. By isolating core driving factors and generating sequential forecasts, the forecaster can approximate the relative impact of each driver on the load forecast, thereby facilitating an insightful presentation of the results.

Be sure to join us on Tuesday, Feb. 19 as we explore this topic. To register for this Brown Bag and other forecasting events, go to http://www.itron.com/forecastingworkshops.

Participation is free, but prior registration is required. Each seminar lasts approximately one hour, allowing 45 minutes for the presentation and 15 minutes for questions. Seminars start at noon Pacific-time. If you can’t attend a seminar or missed one, don’t worry! Your registration ensures that a link to the recording will be sent to you automatically approximately one week after the seminar date.

The Importance of Grid Reliability

While we enjoyed balmy weather at DistribuTECH 2019 in New Orleans this week, the recent polar vortex much of the country experienced last week increased the visibility into the importance of grid reliability and how outage detection can help quickly restore customers’ power and improve safety by keeping their homes warm during frigid temperatures.

On Jan. 9, Itron announced our new Outage Analysis service. Provided as a fully managed service, the new offering provides utilities with an outage detection and notification outcome through performance-based contracts that require no upfront expense or startup fees. Using the award-winning managed services solution that Itron installed for Otter Tail Power Company as a model for the solution, this new outcomes offering will give utilities increased outage visibility into select endpoints and the ability to view voltage and reliability data. As a result, utilities can leverage insights more efficiently to inform consumers of outages and deploy assets to improve outage management efficiency.

Itron’s Outage Analysis provides near real-time outage intelligence in a high-availability and scalable, fully managed service experience, running on the cloud-based Microsoft Azure platform. Outage Analysis provides a pathway for utilities that may not be ready or have the capital to implement a full OMS or AMI system, yet need to deliver improved reliability and cost-savings outcomes to their stakeholders.

Hopefully you were able to stop by booth #10115 to learn more about our Outage Analysis offering. If not, be sure to check us out on Itron.com.

Itron and Cisco: Connecting the Dots in Utility & City IIoT Strategies

Itron and Cisco have a long history of working together to revolutionize the utility industry and sharing a vision of what we can achieve together. Through the intelligent connectivity we deliver, we are helping utilities and cities be more resourceful, efficient and unlock new business opportunities. As the industrial IoT (IIoT) expands these opportunities even further, we’re working together with our customers to understand and face the new challenges that come along with it.

The global utility, smart city and industrial IoT (IIoT) network space is large and diverse, meaning there is no one-size-fits-all approach to connecting hundreds of millions of devices, neither in terms of last mile communication, nor at the networking layer. Similarly, though themes like improving efficiency and quality of life are common across smart utility and city strategies, each organization’s approach can vary greatly. The key to laying the right foundation is to consider a flexible solution with access to diverse standards-based network infrastructure options.

This is where we come in. Together, we deliver the active network. This means that rather than rely on segmented, single-purpose networks, we leverage the power of a proven multi-purpose network that is capable of supporting energy and water AMI, grid management, smart city solutions and more on a single, high-performing platform. We work closely with some of the most progressive utilities and cities in the world to deploy leading ruggedized field area networks.

The importance of standards and interoperability are also key to the successful adoption of IIoT in the smart utility and city space. Both Itron and Cisco hold leadership positions within the Wi-SUN Alliance, for which the realization of interoperable solutions and vendor choice for IIoT network consumers is the founding principal. We are focused on delivering the network communications transport architecture and design strategy that best fits your utility’s business case today, while remaining flexible enough to meet future needs.

Together, Itron and Cisco have deployed millions of intelligent devices, helping our customers achieve proven results, including:
- Detecting and preventing water leaks for greater resourcefulness
- Utilizing smart sensors and applications to detect and prevent gas leaks, making communities and utilities safer
- Preventing electricity outages with access to granular data at the edge of the grid
- Pinpointing and restoring outages for greater customer satisfaction

Built on the pillars of proven network architecture, maximized business outcomes and protected investments, we are committed to solving critical, emerging challenges for utilities and cities. Let us help you connect the dots in your smart utility and city strategies at DistribuTECH (Itron Booth #10115 & Cisco Booth #12142). For more customer results or to learn more about Itron and Cisco’s partnership, visit itron.com/cisco.

Shaping the Future of Energy: DistribuTECH Day 1 Recap

The Itron team kicked off DistribuTECH yesterday with a compelling welcoming address from Itron President and CEO Philip Mezey on shaping the future of energy. Mezey hit the stage energized as he discussed the industry’s drivers for change with tech as the foundation for increasing grid resiliency and reliability. He zeroed-in on how “the face of the grid as we know it is changing” as we move toward improving operational efficiency and addressing aging infrastructure to deliver more reliability and security.

Our CEO also discussed the integration of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs) to meet the challenges of modernizing the grid. Mezey noted that Itron is now working with customers to analyze information being connected to build a more reliable grid. He explained how gathering information from a wide variety of devices permits us to build more successful utilities and allows us to connect with customers in new ways, all the while advancing more sustainable cities.

Presenting after Mezey was Paul Hinnenkamp, executive vice president and COO at Energy, followed by ComEd’s president and COO Terence Donnely. A major theme between all three opening keynote speakers on day one of #DTECH2019 was customer experience. How can we better meet evolving customer expectations and connect with them in a way that wasn’t possible before?

Mezey, Hinnenkamp and Donnely all agree that the time has come to shift to a customer-focused mentality, and grid modernization will help get us there by allowing for faster response times, enhanced outage and detection, and improved customer outcomes.

Donnely drew a clear line of sight between what Mezey articulated by sharing real-world examples of how Itron is working with ComEd to optimize efficiencies with a smart streetlight program that will reduce costs and improve service and outage detection for ComEd’s Chicago and northern Illinois customers.

Building on the customer experience theme was yesterday’s knowledge hub with Raj Vaswani, strategic advisor at Itron (co-founder of Silver Spring Networks), Jim Ogle, senior manager of network engineering at Avista, and Jay Olearain, product director-IoT solutions at Verizon Global Products & Services.

The discussion was centered around understanding IoT connectivity options and use cases for utilities, cities and critical infrastructure. We heard about the energy and city landscape evolution, shifting beyond meter to cash (M2C) and understanding utilities’ roles in the communication network. The shift in customer engagement was mentioned yet again, noting that because customers have a choice in network connectivity, putting the customer experience first is crucial.

When asked where utilities are seeing IIoT as part of their vision, Ogle said there’s a combination of factors needed to react to shifting changes, which include:

  • Environmental pressures such as focusing on renewables
  • Market pressures such as other providers entering the space as a result of distributed resources
  • Energy evolution with tech moving in the direction we need to go, bringing greater situational awareness

Ogle went on to explain that an IIoT use case that’s favored by utilities right now is the transformation from a centralized grid to a more distributed grid, noting, “we have generation out behind the meter, grid scale generation, and renewables all over the energy networking, which is creating a much more dynamic grid and opening up the possibilities of new business models—and with that comes new supporting applications.”

Vaswani’s perspective is that a decade’s worth of proven applications are giving the utility industry confidence to move forward and move faster. New technologies are allowing utilities to think about how they can expand their general infrastructure in a couple of different ways. One is through more things that provide direct business value for their own business, and the other is to potentially provide additional revenue streams. To do that, Vaswani says you cannot be hung up on a particular transport, you do need some flexibility around the mesh architecture, and it better be standards based. “Standards ignite markets and move things forward because people know that they are covered and safe.”

The question was asked how utilities and cities are coming together to develop a long-term network strategy. Ogle answered in saying that the changing landscape with this notion of standards and a more open model is one that requires more collaboration and brings a new approach to the problems utilities have been dealing with. Utilities can no longer build siloed systems that are independent of each other. We can expect to see much more collaborative partnerships to deliver on customer service with a drive to do it more efficiently.

The rich insights shared yesterday are a good indicator that the rest of DistribuTECH will be packed with engaging keynotes and knowledge hubs! But #DTECH2019 is just getting started – stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, you can keep up with the #DTECH2019 conversation in real-time on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Also, be sure to stop by our booth #10115 to check out the Itron Experience and enter to win a pair of Apple® Airpods® with the hashtag #ImItronExperienced.

A Lot of Buzz Around Revenue Assurance at DistribuTECH 2019

Non-technical losses are a major concern for all utilities, and it never ceases to amaze me what some people will do to try to cheat a utility out of payment for services delivered. While at the Itron Revenue Assurance pod here at DistribuTECH 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana, I have had a number of interesting conversations with customers and attendees regarding this topic.

One that stood out to me was a ‘fixer’ that was duping people into thinking he could install a device on their meter that would make the whole house 50 percent more efficient. In some cases, people were paying as much $500 for this behind-the-meter ‘device’. When the utility caught up with this person, they were able to connect more than 90 cases of tampering to him. Another interesting story was that of a series of connected businesses that made a prolonged and concerted effort in reducing registered consumption over a period of 24 months with the intent of defeating any high-low alarms. They didn’t know about the power of peer-comparison analytics apparently – and now they are on the hook for close to $500,000 in back fees.

That’s why we are passionate about what we do. With over 30 utilities and more than 35 million endpoints utilizing Itron’s Revenue Assurance, it incorporates the best features of our Theft Detection application with the Revenue Assurance application to deliver over 100+ algorithms for gas and electric services, an easily tailored user interface, a complete set of workflow tools for managing all investigation and service order work, as well as seamless integration to back office systems. Taking mitigating actions quickly can enhance and protect revenues, alleviate safety concerns and demonstrate a positive customer focus.

I am interested to see what else I learn about this important topic over the next few days at DistribuTECH 2019!

Stop by booth 10115 to hear more about our Revenue Assurance offering and enter to win a pair of Apple® Airpods® with the hashtag #ImItronExperienced.

Also, be sure to tag and follow #DTECH2019 while you’re in New Orleans to keep up with all the latest DistribuTECH 2019 happenings.

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