Staying On Top of New Tech
The smart grid has truly changed the way utilities operate. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that, between 2010 and 2014, large public and private investments totaling over $9 billion advanced smart grid technology deployments, providing real-world data on technology costs and benefits along with best practices. 1
These improvements include grid operations, energy efficiency, asset utilization and reliability. Everything appears to be running faster and it seems there’s only one question left unanswered: How will the workforce manage to keep up?
“It may sound cliché to say that we’re now able to do more with less, but it’s true,” says John Tisera, Executive Vice President at Anixter. “Technology is making it possible for utilities to operate at a level of efficiency we’ve never seen before.” Tisera points to several ways in which utilities are improving their processes to harness this new-found efficiency:
Better Customer Service
Smart thermostats, remote turn-on and turn-off, and real-time communication through social media and other online channels are all coming together to empower energy customers more than ever before. They’re also coming together to help utilities provide a level of customer service beyond what could have been imagined even one decade ago.
Shifting Work Roles
With more smart meters in place, the job role of meter reader is needed less than in the past. According to Tisera, good employees don’t need to be lost because their original job description has changed. “With clear, regular communication and the right context, valued employees can find success in other areas while—at the same time— boosting efficiency where it’s needed,” he says.
Whether it is smart meters or the control room, a smart grid system can increase reliability and reduce power outages. Special meters on houses and businesses and sensors along transmission lines can constantly monitor demand and supply. Mailbox-size devices measure the flow of electricity through the grid in real time, allowing operators to foresee and avoid disruptions. Smart appliances can "talk" to the grid and shift electricity use to off-peak times, which eases the burden on the grid – ultimately lowering prices and helping to avoid blackouts.
Advanced, Large-Scale Material Management
As smart grid technology is adopted, large-scale projects aimed at improving the current power infrastructure are becoming commonplace. “Between laydown yards, warehouses and transmission structures, technology solutions can help track exactly what you need, where it is, and how quickly it can be deployed,” Tisera explains.
Another area of inventory management that has improved to meet efficiency demands is in the area of vending solutions for workers. These solutions allow teams to "check out" materials from a vending machine via ID cards or codes, leading to several key benefits. “They provide safe, secure 24-hour access to tools,” Tisera explains.
In the end, says Tisera, it may seem technology is moving faster than our ability to keep up, but reality isn’t quite as daunting. When utilities tap into the right training opportunities, services and solutions, they can adopt processes that truly keep up with change.