Innovation Takes Center Stage During Itron Utility Week 2020

Last week, we wrapped up our first-ever virtual Itron Utility Week (IUW), bringing together a record number of registrants, including Itron customers, partners, sponsors and industry experts from across the globe. What was most incredible about this event was how, despite the challenges brought on by this year, we were all still able to connect, share ideas, learn from one another and empower innovation virtually – we even had folks tune in all the way from Norway!

During this year’s event, the focus on innovation and the need to look at things differently was front and center. The challenges that we are facing together in the industry – from rising consumer expectations and integrating renewables to navigating increasingly connected, smarter cities and communities or addressing aging infrastructure – mean we can’t continue to do things as we have before. During the opening keynote, Tom Deitrich, Itron president and CEO, stated that the enduring transformation of our industry requires innovation, and that innovation starts with people.

“We can empower innovation by sharing fresh ideas with endless possibilities, and together, create a more resilient, more reliable, safer and more resourceful world,” said Deitrich.

Joining the conversation, Paula Gold-Williams, president and CEO of CPS Energy, discussed how the industry needs to be more agile and think about the “long-term plays.”

“Our general thinking is that we have to be open to change and improvement. Every challenge that the world is given, every challenge that a human is given, is an opportunity to learn from it, grow, and accept it,” said Gold-Williams. “But in our industry, we can’t just accept change, we have to embrace it.”

To kick off day two, Kimberly Britton, CEO of EPIcenter, moderated a panel of female leaders at the forefront of our industry, including Heather Rosentrater, SVP of energy delivery and shared services at Avista; Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts; and Sadzi Oliva, commissioner of Illinois Commerce Commission. The group discussed topics such as leading in a time of crisis, the reality of working from home and how to best manage competing demands. Read more in this spotlight blog: Empowering Innovation – Women in Utilities Panel.

Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, shared how to build a culture of innovation, collaboration and inclusion in the final keynote of the day. His insight was especially relevant to 2020 and the challenges we have all faced this year, stating: “the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been – and when the stakes are high, businesses take a look at their purpose and take the opportunity to renew their purpose.” That’s something we can certainly all take into account as we work through challenges derived from COVID-19 and its impacts on how we operate.

For our final day, we opened with a Big Picture Session, Creating Agile Communities Leveraging Smart City & Utility Infrastructure, moderated by Jason Anderson from Cleantech San Diego. During this session, our panel of city, utility and industry experts discussed the role of smart infrastructure in creating agile communities that can adapt to rapidly evolving situations in real time. To wrap up the event, Nicola Palmer, chief product development officer at Verizon, shared her thoughts on the future of utility and smart city networks, and the impact of 5G on how we live, interact and play.

Awards and Breakout Sessions
Throughout the event, attendees had the opportunity to dig in on a range of topics spanning across four themed tracks: Applications, Outcomes and Services; Multi-purpose Network Solutions; Mobile and Measurement Solutions; and Data Management.

We also revealed our 2020 Resourcefulness Award Winners, hosted by Frost & Sullivan. Now in its fifth year, this award recognizes utilities that are achieving measurable outcomes in the wise and careful use of energy and water, leveraging advanced technologies or services. Congratulations to CPS Energy and BRK Ambiental as the recipients of this year’s Excellence in Resourcefulness Awards. In addition, John Marcolini, Itron’s SVP of Networked Solutions, announced Western Power in Perth, Australia as our 2020 Innovator Award winner.

Missed IUW 2020?
If you were unable to attend this year’s event, or if you would like to review sessions, all content will be available on demand through the end of November. To access the content, click here and select the REGISTER tile on our event landing page (if you have not already done so). Registration is quick, simple and free.

Be Sure to Join Us Next Year
For nearly 40 years, we’ve been hosting Itron Utility Week—or some version of it—for our customers, partners and prospects. What started as a small user-group meeting in an airport conference room has grown into one of the premier events in our industry. But just as our industry continues to evolve, so too must our signature event. In today’s world, smart cities, municipalities, co-ops, even government entities are all key stakeholders and have a seat at the table in our industry—and they should at our event as well. It is with this all of this in mind, that I am so excited to introduce all of you to: Itron Inspire.

This will be the new name for our conference moving forward. And although we’re rebranding the event, our customers, partners, prospects and all of you can still expect the same great industry connections, thought leadership and valuable insights that you’ve come to expect from IUW in the past.

You’ll be seeing a lot more about Itron Inspire as we prepare for next year’s event—which I am pleased to announce will be hosted at the JW Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Desert, California, Oct. 1 – 8, 2021.

Together with our customers and our partners, we’ll inspire new thinking and new ingenuity across our industry as we all work to create a more resourceful world.


Expect the Unexpected: 2020’s Lessons in Innovation and Continuity

2020 has been a year like no other. As challenging as it has been at times, it has also given all of us across the industry the opportunity to rise to the occasion and continue to deliver the critical electricity, gas and water services that our customers rely on, day in and day out—safely, reliably and efficiently.

To gauge how our customers were adapting to the pandemic and resulting hardships, Itron surveyed this year’s Itron Utility Week Advisory Board to learn more about what lessons they’ve learned as they adapt to COVID-19 and how that learning can be applied to future resiliency and adaptability in the face of uncertain, challenging times.

Through this survey, we discovered a few keys themes, including:

  • Utilities across North America reacted swiftly. Contingency plans, new procedures and polices to ensure the safety of employees and the communities were enacted or created quickly.
  • Community service and compassion took—and continues to take—center stage. Our customers are always a huge player in their communities, and the pandemic only accentuated this fact.
  • Communication is absolutely critical. Leadership teams needed to discuss and enact business continuity/crisis plans quickly; workforces that suddenly found themselves remote and working from home needed to remain engaged and in sync; and more.
  • Looking forward, leadership teams are determining how to leverage lessons learned from this new working model.

We are pleased to share the complete findings of our survey in a couple of ways:

  • First is a downloadable eBook, available here. This document summarizes how innovation helped to evolve pandemic responses for the utilities represented, and how the pandemic accelerated or paused certain initiatives.
  • The second is through a podcast featuring our Advisory Board chair Joe Thomas of Duke Energy and myself. This podcast is available as on-demand content for attendees of our first-ever virtual Itron Utility Week.

To all of our customers, partners and prospects committed to ensuring essential energy and water service – thank you. We will continue to navigate this unprecedented time together. Stay well and stay safe.

Empowering Innovation: Women in Utilities Panel

As our industry continues its evolution toward a more consumer-centric, digital business model, women are critical in helping drive this transformation and create lasting change. The Women in Utilities panel at Itron Utility Week—now in its fifth year—provides an opportunity to hear from women in the industry and showcase our theme of Empowering Innovation.

Kimberly Britton, CEO of EPIcenter, moderated a panel of female leaders at the forefront of our industry, including Heather Rosentrater, SVP of energy delivery and shared services at Avista; Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts; and Sadzi Oliva, commissioner of Illinois Commerce Commission. The group discussed topics such as leading in a time of crisis, the reality of working from home and how to best manage competing demands.

The panel began with each woman sharing her career path and obstacles faced along the way, noting the importance of mentors throughout their profession. When asked about leading through a crisis, the group agreed it is important to put things into perspective and trust your gut when making decisions. As the women adapt to the new normal of working from home, the importance of establishing a healthy work/life balance was a sentiment echoed by all. To help achieve this balance, they shared tips such as having a dedicated workspace, taking time to exercise, blocking time on the calendar to prioritize work and unwinding with family.

This inspiring panel celebrated the women who are leading the industry forward through new technology, better energy and water management, and by helping to create smarter communities. We sincerely thank this year’s amazing panelists for their leadership and dedication to uplift females in our industry and support their personal and professional growth.

Missed an #IUW20 session? All content will be available to watch on-demand through the month of November.

Frost & Sullivan Recognizes CPS Energy and BRK Ambiental with Excellence in Resourcefulness Awards at Itron Utility Week

Frost & Sullivan announced today CPS Energy and BRK Ambiental as the recipients of the fifth annual Excellence in Resourcefulness Awards. Their steadfast efforts to significantly improve the resourceful use of energy and water by successfully implementing modern technology highlight a strong commitment to a sustainable future. The utilities received honors for their achievements during this year's virtual Itron Utility Week.

CPS Energy resides in the seventh-largest city in the U.S., San Antonio, Texas, and holds an impressive record for modernizing its grid infrastructure. In partnership with technology vendors such as Itron, the utility is constantly reassessing its infrastructure to efficiently integrate a growing and diverse energy mix and optimize energy and street lighting. In response to climate change, CPS Energy supports the city's ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050 through careful evaluation and integration of long-duration energy storage, distributed energy resources, and energy-efficiency programs. Early investments in an IPv6-based network are helping to successfully architect a city of the future.

"This visionary utility can be characterized as pioneer and innovator for modernizing its existing grid infrastructure and enabling the efficient delivery of energy, setting an example for many other utilities and communities to follow. It is a clear example of a living innovation lab that is centered on improving the living standards of its growing residents," said Farah Saeed, Research Director, Digital Grids at Frost & Sullivan. "The utility has been on a consistent path to incorporate renewable power, which started over 20 years ago along with modernizing its grid infrastructure with an IPv6-based network almost seven years ago. These early grid modernization decisions have been instrumental for optimizing critical assets within the city."

BRK Ambiental, a water and distribution company located in North Brazil, bordering the Amazon, experienced high water pressure and non-revenue water losses while serving 1 million residents. In partnership with Itron and Accell Solutions, the utility evaluated how it could improve its water management and deployed Itron Water Operations Management across 70% of its territory. The city has experienced a significant reduction in water leaks and labor costs while improving customer satisfaction.

"BRK Ambiental recognized early on the clear benefits of upgrading its water operation management system to not only improve its services, but also to become more resourceful. Being so close to the Amazon, most customers were already very conscientious about water conservation. However, BRK Ambiental aimed to educate its customers about the need to invest in enhanced water infrastructure and water conservation methods. Through this upgrade it has been able to detect 31 leaks as well as has experienced a water recovery of $121,863 as well as avoided an estimated $1.2 million in field verification and emergency pipe repair costs," said Saeed.

As part of the selection process, Frost & Sullivan conducted in-depth research and interviews and evaluated utilities against industry best practices and the decision criteria, including societal and business impact for each category. Indicators for societal impact included improving customer awareness and participation, enabling behavioral change to reduce waste through customer engagement and technology-driven programs, and yielding impressive waste reduction that benefits the overall served community. Indicators for business impact included drafting a clear vision to address excessive waste through technology implementation, achieving operational effectiveness as a result of a successful strategy for sustainability, and strengthening a utility's brand image as a leader for sustainability.

Read the press release here.

IUW 2020: Your Guide to a Stellar Virtual Event

It’s time for Itron Utility Week (IUW) 2020! While it is a completely virtual experience this year, we’re still featuring much of the same content you’ve come to expect from IUW, including thought-provoking keynotes, panel discussions, breakout sessions, a virtual Knowledge Center and opportunities to learn from leaders and peers. This year’s event kicks off on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at 8 a.m. PDT and there is still time to register (at no charge) here.

In addition to all of our amazing breakout sessions, there is so much more to experience at #IUW20. To make the most of the event, keep these items in mind:

  • Be sure to check out our Knowledge Center, including the Itron Experience, to see a sampling of Itron and partner solutions that are helping to redefine resource management for energy and water providers and smart communities—many of which are featured in breakout sessions for IUW20. Learn more about our collective solutions through a variety of videos, virtual demos, presentations, case studies, brochures and more.
  • Itron’s vibrant partner ecosystem is essential to delivering innovations that exceed the expectations of our customers. We encourage you to check out our partner landing pages and on-demand sessions to learn more.
  • Speaking of on-demand, we have several on-demand sessions you can watch anytime, anywhere including, “Expect the Unexpected: 2020’s Lessons for Innovation and Continuity” and a panel discussion with Itron’s three business line leaders on the factors driving change in our industry. Good news! All of our content will be available on-demand through the month of November.
  • We want to hear from you! Please be sure to share your feedback by filling out session surveys and complete the post-event survey (watch for this in your email) to be entered to win an Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet.
  • Have some fun! Test your knowledge in our Knowledge Center and be entered to win Bose Audio Sunglasses and a wireless speaker. Don’t forget to share you experience on social by following @ItronInc on Twitter and using #IUW20 when tweeting about the event. Each day, we will be awarding a UV Smartphone Sanitizer and Universal Charger to the top social media user who uses the #IUW20 hashtag.

There is so much to explore at Itron Utility Week, and we can’t wait for you to join us! Visit to learn more.

Through September 2020: Trends in Estimated Load Impacts of COVID-19 Mitigation Policies on European and North American Electricity Consumption

As previously discussed in the first of this blog series on April 13, as lockdown policies are enacted to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Itron Forecasting Team is leveraging publicly available hourly load data for most North American Independent System Operators (ISOs) and a select set of European countries to build a picture of the load impacts by region. To assess the load impact of COVID-19 mitigation strategies, actual loads when many of these policies began are compared to baseline loads without COVID-19 policy impacts.

Across Europe and North America, the biggest estimated load reductions occurred in April with an estimated reduction in average daily load between -12.3% and -7.2%.  In recent months, the combination of the relaxing of lockdown restrictions and hot weather has led to no apparent load impact in North America, but a continued small impact in Europe.

For a detailed summary of the estimated load impacts, go to the forecasting website to download the latest COVID-19 Load Impact memo.

The Itron Forecasting Team will continue to post updated summary blogs and corresponding memos on the trends.

Subscribe to our blog to be notified of new posts and contact us at if you have further questions.

Estimated Daily Average Energy Impact Wedge

Demand Response During COVID-19 and Summer Heatwaves

Demand response – which consistently has its demise predicted – has not only played a significant, positive role in helping our electric utility clients maintain supply and demand in the last year, but has also awakened regulators across the country to its value as a reliable asset. Traditional demand response, defined as helping utilities reduce peak demand primarily during higher than average temperature days (excessive “cooling degree days”), has been used as a cost-effective, customer-focused incentive program service that limits air conditioning load throughout a service territory. Itron’s Distributed Energy Management (DEM) group is a leading provider of demand response services, with 29 active programs controlling over 2 million behind-the-meter devices.

With more people home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been major shifts in consumption by the customer sector, including a lot more residential consumption and of course, a lot less commercial building consumption. Here are a few insights provided by one of Itron’s partners, Pecan Street, in Austin, Texas.

  1. Total residential demand is up
  2. COVID-19 is changing the “Duck Curve” – reducing excess customer sell back of solar to the grid, because they are consuming more at home
  3. Electric vehicle (EV) charging is down, both at home and in public due to less commuting as well as a slowdown in EV car sales

While the aggregate load may be down, the shift from commercial to residential has grid impacts. This is the area of our focus and aligns with the shifting nature of where DEM is going – to be able to measure, monitor and orchestrate an increasing amount of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) behind the meter for distribution grid optimization. A case in point is with residential load impacts. Neighborhoods operate with older, less capable infrastructure – older transformers, smaller voltage lines, less automated substations and vis-à-vis commercial buildings that operate on newer, larger, more automated distribution infrastructure. Increasing load in residential neighborhoods can cause locational problems that can lead to service disruption and negative customer impact. They offer an opportunity for greater consumption analytics, more customer behind the meter DERs and more customer programs.

In addition to COVID-19 impacts, the changing nature of residential customer appliances and energy generation is also impacting the distribution grid, not completely, but often in individual neighborhoods, increasing challenges and risks for our utility clients. Electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE) will start proliferating in customer homes, creating the largest load in the home and in some cases, doubling the load for a single-family customer. That will have direct impact on secondary transformers.

Recently, our senior product manager and grid optimization expert, George Simons, wrote an article for T&D World on this very topic. If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s a great technical read for our utility customers and a nice way to introduce how Itron is planning to solve these challenges, while offering more value to their customers.

Itron’s product offering for demand response includes leveraging our analytics expertise to create greater insights, which can lead to better grid management. We have significant analytics capabilities that can work with our OpenWay Riva IoT solution (featuring distributed intelligence), networks software such as SensorIQ and Operations Optimizer, MetrixIDR and DER analytics. These analytics can leverage multiple data sets to provide insights to end use customers, but also in aggregate, to measure impacts to transformers and substations, enabling utilities to better manage locational supply and demand, address impacts to older, less equipped infrastructure and improve reliability and services to utility customers.

Reducing the Potential for Generation Redispatch

The pan-European electricity market enables competitive wholesale and retail exchange of electricity while ensuring the security of the electric grid. The market design supports both day-ahead and intraday electricity exchanges that require accurate electricity consumption and generation forecasts to ensure safe and cost-effective grid operations. The day-ahead market establishes an initial schedule of generation resources required to meet the anticipated day-ahead electricity consumption. The intraday market provides for electricity exchanges to clear current day energy imbalances. As a last resort, Transmission System Operators (TSOs) redispatch generation to relieve congestion bottlenecks and maintain system security.

Over the period of 2015 through 2019, the cost of Germany’s generation redispatch averaged a little under €1 billion per year. To help manage the cost of redispatch in the face of the rapid deployment of renewable generation, Germany’s Redispatch 2.0 guidelines allow German TSOs to throttle down grid-connected wind, solar, and combined heat and power generation if other redispatch options are more costly. To assess all possible redispatch options, German Distribution System Operators (DSOs) are required to submit to their respective Transmission System Operator (TSO) day-ahead and intraday forecasts of generation (> 100 KW) and consumption within their distribution system. The DSO forecasts are critical inputs to network models that redispatch grid and non-grid connected generation (for example, centralized dispatched load control) to meet consumption subject to transmission and distribution system operating constraints.

Day-ahead and intraday consumption forecasts are developed generally using techniques from two broad classes of load forecast frameworks:

  • Equation-based Approaches: Under this approach, parametrized equations are used to predict loads as a function of calendar (e.g., day-of-the-week, season, holidays, special event days), economic (e.g., operating schedules, employment levels), weather (e.g., temperature, humidity, wind speed, precipitation) and solar (sunrise/sunset times, observance of daylight savings, solar irradiance) conditions. Historical load data are combined with historical measurements of explanatory variables or features to estimate the parameters of the equations. Once the parameters are estimated, forecasted calendar, economic, weather and solar conditions are passed into the equations to form the load forecast. Techniques that fall into this class are multivariate regression, advanced neural networks, and support vector regression, among others.
  • Classification-based Approaches: Under this approach, historical load data are classified based on calendar, economic, weather and solar conditions. Days with similar conditions as the forecast day are then averaged to form the load forecast. Techniques that fall into this class are Gradient Boost, Random Forests, and Like Day Lookup, among others.

A useful way of thinking of a load forecast is to look at it as an average of historical load data under similar calendar, economic, weather and solar conditions as the day being forecasted. From the perspective of an event like COVID-19, the challenge is that the historical data upon which the load forecasts are constructed are not under the same economic conditions as those prevailing under lockdown mandates imposed by countries to curb the spread of COVID-19. Although lockdown policies vary across Europe, in general, the policies have led to school closures and reduced operations or closures of non-essential businesses. Many other businesses have a large portion of their employees working remotely from home. The net effect is a shift of weekday electricity consumption from the nonresidential sector to the residential sector. For DSOs and TSOs operating in countries with lockdown mandates in place, there has been an evolution of the system load shape toward a residential load pattern. Day-ahead and intraday load forecast frameworks that do not adapt to the shift in load patterns will realize an erosion of forecast performance. This adds pressure on system operators to continually evaluate their generation dispatch plans to ensure all energy imbalances are cleared.

Dr. Frank Monforte, Director of Forecasting Solutions at Itron, recently wrote a white paper that presents a framework for improving day-ahead and intraday consumption forecasts in the face of existing COVID-19 lockdown mitigation policies, as well as when the lockdown policies are relaxed to allow for a re-opening of Europe’s economies. Historical hourly load data for 10 countries spanning the pan-European electric grid is used to demonstrate how load consumption patterns have changed because of COVID-19 lockdowns. The analysis of the data suggests how existing load forecasting frameworks can be adapted to prevent erosion of forecast performance. Download a copy today!

Providing Resourceful Solutions to Protect Our Most Precious Resource

We may live on a planet that has 71% of its land mass covered in water, but that doesn’t mean it is easily accessible, let alone drinkable. Water is not an infinite resource, and for many communities across the globe, easy access to water is a constant challenge.

It is estimated that approximately one-third of all water produced by drinking water treatment utilities globally either does not make it to customers or is not properly billed – this is what we call non-revenue water (NRW) loss. We need to do better.

At Itron, we are determined to help our utility and municipality customers make every drop of water count, providing modern water solutions for an industry in transition. Whatever the drivers are for creating easier and more affordable access to water resources — whether that’s overcoming climate-induced water scarcity, combating aging infrastructure or facing an increasing population in urban areas — utilities with as little as 20,000 or fewer endpoints are finding new hope for cost-effective solutions. With this solution, they can ensure water is available and accessible for their communities while helping keep costs low.

By combining our smart devices, intelligently connected industrial IoT networks and analytics solutions, Itron helps our customers gain actionable understanding of water metering and use, water distribution, water leakage and more. Leak detection technology and analytics also support revenue protection for utilities, while smart water technology brings intelligence and action to the very edge of the distribution network. This type of intelligent connectivity helps identify real losses in the distribution system and proactively address them before a leak becomes larger or causes substantial damage to surrounding infrastructure.

Learn more about Itron’s water solutions and revenue protection technology during our virtual Itron Utility Week (IUW), coming up Oct. 27 – 29. Attendees will be able to dig in on a range of topics spanning across four themed tracks: Applications, Outcomes and Services; Multi-purpose Network Solutions; Mobile and Measurement Solutions; and Data Management. Specifically, for those interested in water management, join our sessions focusing on “Reducing Non-Revenue Water through Leak Detection” and “Panel: 3D ROI for Streetlights + Smart Community Applications.”

Want to know more about IUW 2020? Visit to learn about our virtual content, or watch this video as an introduction to our one-of-a-kind event. Registration is free for Itron customers, partners and prospects.

Stay tuned for additional blogs throughout the next few weeks as we prepare to kick off #IUW20!

Five Ways to Make the Most of Your Virtual IUW Experience

With the safety of our customers and employees in mind, Itron Utility Week (IUW) will be a completely virtual experience this year. Although we are disappointed that we won’t be able to see your smiling faces in person, virtual events have unique advantages.

To help you make the most of IUW 2020, hosted Oct. 27 – 29, we have put together a list of tips to maximize your virtual experience.

  1. Set the Vibe: Even though we cannot enjoy IUW 2020 together in person at a fabulous location far away from home, you can still make the event feel special and set the tone for a refreshing experience. Give yourself time before the event starts (8 a.m. Pacific each day) to make a cup of coffee or tea, clear off your desk and get comfortable. If possible, ensure minimal interruptions by informing your at-home colleagues or family that you will be attending an incredible event for the next few hours. During the event, you can even share your set up with us by posting a photo to social media and using hashtag #MyIUW.
  2. Dress for the Occasion: Several studies have shown that the clothes you wear actually prime your brain to function differently. To ensure you are ready to take in everything IUW has to offer, wear something that makes you feel confident, put together and ready to tackle industry challenges with us and your peers.
  3. Interact with Others: The IUW team has been working hard to put together breakout sessions and engagement tools such as Q&A and surveys to ensure that you can interact with other attendees during the event. Please take advantage of these tools and don’t be afraid to ask questions during breakout sessions—almost all have time allotted for Q&A.
  4. Be Present: With a virtual event, it is easy to get distracted by email, your phone, your pets or even snacks calling your name from the kitchen. Ensure that you soak up every thoughtful insight during IUW by minimizing distractions and staying focused. For some, this may even mean keeping your hands busy.
  5. Get Social: We want to hear your thoughts and takeaways during the event, so follow @ItronInc on Twitter and use #IUW20 when tweeting about the event. Each day, we will be announcing the top influencers using the #IUW20 hashtag on Twitter, so get social for your chance to be on the leaderboard. We also created a LinkedIn event page, where you can have discussions with other event attendees and network.

We cannot wait for our very first virtual IUW! If you haven’t already, be sure to register today at no cost to you.

If It Were Not for the Data, Everything Would Be Great

I recently developed a set of 15-minute load forecast models when I noticed something odd in the pattern of the MAPEs (Mean Absolute Percent Errors) from interval to interval. After unsuccessfully trying a few of my usual tactics to resolve the problem, I presented the following figure to one of my colleagues:

Not wanting to let the proverbial cat out of the bag myself, I said, “Do you see what I see?” After a moment of reflection, he indeed saw what I saw: the MAPE of every fourth interval jumps up. That is not cool at all.

Here is a bit of background. This set of models is highly auto-regressive. That is, each model uses lagged loads from the prior four intervals as driver variables (as well as the typical calendar and weather variables). The model for 1 a.m., for instance, depends upon loads from 12:45 a.m., 12:30 a.m., 12:15 a.m. and midnight. This is a common approach for very short-term forecasting. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I have used this same approach many times without incident.

In an effort to identify and to ameliorate the problem, I tried a few things. I had thought that the weather data might not be aligned correctly with the load data. I removed all of the coincident weather variables and re-worked the models so they all have the same specification (except for the relevant lagged-loads) with the same time-of-day weather variables. When that failed to resolve the problem, I was sufficiently convinced that the weather was not the issue. I also tried manipulating the lagged intervals, excluding the fourth lag (i.e., the 1-hour back) variable and other similar inclusions and exclusions of various lags. That too proved to be like an empty apple bag – entirely fruitless.

This is not the data for an individual customer or even a small municipality. In fact, the data is for a transmission grid, accounting for the electricity consumption of millions of customers. After some deeper contemplation, consultation and reflection, we decided that this is not the way real load data behaves! There is no reason that models at the top of the hour should be systematically worse than models from the :45- minute mark or the :15- minute mark. This data was clearly not measured, but rather, it was constructed. Further, it was constructed in such a way as to create a bias in the resulting values. This is not obvious when observing the load data itself or even when viewing the ramp-rates (i.e. the interval-to-interval deltas).

We dug deep into our mental archives for a solution, where we found our old friends Savitzky and Golay. (Let me tell you: those guys knew how to rock!) I will leave it to you to review their work. Essentially, their idea is to apply a smoothing algorithm to the data. In this case, we applied a 5-period centered polynomial weighted average. Our goal is to identify the ‘signal’ in the data and not to be distracted by the “noise.”

The following figure displays one day of 15-minute data that is both smoothed (in blue) and raw (in red). A few observations are circled to illustrate that the smoothed data cuts through the center of the noise in the raw data, thereby creating a less volatile series.

The 5-period centered smoothing algorithm is generalized as:


  • i = interval. In this case, there are 96 intervals per day because the data has a 15-minute frequency.
  • -3, 12, and 17 are the “convolution coefficients” as derived by Savitsky and Golay.

The following is an example for the 12 p.m. interval:

I will spare you the details of the mechanical processes we used in MetrixND and MetrixIDR to perform these calculations and I will cut directly to the climactic fight scene. We ran the identical models, but this time the data had first been smoothed. The following figure presents the MAPEs from the original models in blue and the new models with smoothed data in orange. There are two salient points:

  1. The dramatically higher MAPEs at the top of the hour are largely eliminated by smoothing the data.
  2. The models with the smoothed data are systematically better than the original models, as evidenced by the orange bars being lower than the blue bars for the same intervals. In fact, the average MAPE for the 96 intervals was reduced from 0.50% to 0.27%. Cutting the average MAPE in half is no small feat.

Many of the changes we make in models tend to have marginal impacts. Further, the changes often have the effect of improving some intervals while degrading other intervals. I rarely see changes in models that are both dramatic and systematic. When those two criteria are met, I declare victory.

What can we learn from this? First, we can use the models themselves to inform us about the data. Remember, it was the pattern in the MAPEs that led us down this road. Second, we cannot necessarily trust the data itself. The numbers are not provided by a ‘data fairy’ who magically and lovingly delivers pristine data to us under our pillows while we sleep. In most cases, we do not know the story behind the collection or calculation of the data. We must be vigilant and skeptical. Further, we can use the tools at our disposal to address many of the issues that we face.

IUW 2020: Empowering Innovation

At Itron Utility Week – whether we’re meeting in person or getting together virtually (such are the times) – we unlock and empower innovation to drive the industry forward. Innovation starts with people, and that is why each year, we gather industry experts, colleagues and thought leaders together for a conference unlike any other.

Due to COVID-19, and with the safety of our customers and employees in mind, we will be hosting the first-ever virtual Itron Utility Week. From Oct. 27 – 29, we will gather virtually to learn from one another and open the door to endless possibilities through innovation for utilities and cities around the world.

This year’s virtual event will feature 20 breakout sessions led by industry peers, insightful keynotes, engaging executive panels, the Excellence in Resourcefulness and Itron Innovator Awards, and access to Itron’s first virtual Knowledge Center, which showcases many of our solutions and partner offerings.

  • Paula Gold-Williams, president and CEO of CPS Energy, and Tom Deitrich, president and CEO of Itron, will kick things off with an opening keynote and fireside chat about innovation and community partnership.
  • During our Women in Utilities session, Kimberly Britton, CEO of EPIcenter, will moderate a panel of female leaders at the forefront of our industry to discuss topics such as leading in a time of crisis, the reality of working from home and how to best manage competing demands.
  • Our Big Picture Session focusing on “Creating Agile Communities Leveraging Smart City and Utility Infrastructure,” featuring city, utility and industry experts, is a discussion you won’t want to miss.
  • Our motivational keynote, Michael C. Bush, will share insights from his research on the Best Companies to Work For lists and how companies can better innovate.
  • Nicki Palmer, chief product development officer, and Verizon will wrap things up with a closing keynote focusing on the evolution of utility and municipal networks.

Attendees will also be able to dig in on a range of topics spanning across four themed tracks: applications, outcomes and services; multi-purpose network solutions; mobile and measurement solutions; and data management.

Want to know more? Visit to learn about our virtual content, or watch this video as an introduction to our one-of-a-kind event. Registration is free for Itron customers, partners and prospects.

Stay tuned for additional blogs throughout the next few weeks as we prepare to kick off IUW 2020!

I agree to have my personal information transfered to AWeber ( more information )
Opt in to receive notifications when a blog post is published. Don't miss the thought leadership, insight and news from Itron.
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.