Unlocking the transformative potential of data analytics for power utilities
November 21, 2023

Leandro Cunha

Data analytics has emerged as a game-changing force across all industries, including power utilities. It can potentially reshape and enhance processes and quality of service to entirely new levels. This transformation gains even more significance in the current global energy transition context. As the world shifts towards greener energy sources and carbon emission reduction, data analytics offers a route for forecasting energy demands, optimizing renewable energy integration and improving operational efficiencies. It brings data-driven strategies to the table, facilitating smarter decisions for a more sustainable and resilient energy future.

The Data Analytics Journey

Embracing data analytics is more than just adopting new technology; it is a transformative journey. It involves carefully selecting the right analytics tools, integrating them seamlessly into existing systems and fostering a data-driven culture within the organization. Furthermore, it involves addressing data security and privacy concerns, which are paramount in the power utility sector. Above all, the first and most important step is to begin generating, collecting and storing quality data.

Power utilities can use data analytics to draw insights from a range of data sources. From system SCADA and instruments to external sensors, from manufacturer and asset documentation to inspection images and maintenance records, from operation logs to energy consumption — every part of the power system contributes valuable records. The data may also come from external domains, including weather, geography, economic markets, social media, and textual sources. When all relevant data are transformed into insights and predictions, and visualized with the right tools, it leads to measurable outcomes, such as reduced operational costs, enhanced system reliability and a clear reduction in environmental impact.

Some real-world examples demonstrate the potential for transformation in the power industry.

Data engineering and descriptive analytics dashboards

Developing data engineering pipelines and exploratory data analysis is usually a crucial part of every data analytics project. As a standalone project, it often marks a first step towards a more data-driven organizational culture. In this type of project, integrating, cleaning, transforming and storing data from diverse operational and external sources through data engineering occurs. Applying descriptive analytics to this refined data to interactively visualize and investigate patterns, variations from norms, correlations and other relationships enables insights and decision support. Utilizing data visualization, dashboards can be created that display important metrics such as asset performance, reliability, consumption patterns, sentiment, financials and more.

Predictive Maintenance

By analyzing historical trends and emerging patterns in asset component data, maintenance logs, inspection records and even images and then cross-analyzing these with external relevant data such as weather and geography, power utilities can accurately forecast maintenance needs. This approach enables optimization of schedules to effectively prevent outages by predicting the remaining lifetime of assets. Rather than following preset schedules, maintenance can now be performed at precisely the right time based on predictive insights derived from machine learning algorithms. Adopting this methodology can not only improve the reliability of the power system but can also reduce the costs associated with unplanned outages and extensive repairs.

Real-time monitoring

Beyond relying on historical data for maintenance, power utilities can tap into data from sensors on assets like power transformers and generators installed to monitor parameters such as temperature, load, vibration and dissolved gases. Advanced data analytics systems are equipped to handle this constant data stream in real time, combining it with other sources. With appropriate model training, those systems can detect even subtle anomalies and trigger checks or maintenance before issues escalate.

Renewable energy generation forecasting

Advanced data analytics plays a crucial role in accurately forecasting the generation capacity of renewable energy sources like solar farms and wind turbines. Utilizing historical weather data, sensor data and sophisticated predictive models, this application enables more precise forecasting of energy output. This not only assists in balancing the power grid but also aids in strategic planning and optimizing the use of renewable resources.

Economic evaluation applications

Through data analytics, power utilities can create models that quantify costs, benefits and risks associated with investments, projects, pricing changes and business decisions. Models like these have proven their worth in financial and housing markets and can be repurposed for various applications within the power sector to predict pricing trends, forecast asset valuation and identify options with the greatest cost-benefit and socio-environmental payoffs.

How PSC can help

PSC has specialists that can design and build data analytics solutions tailored to the specific requirements of power utilities. We provide strategic guidance, aid in technology selection and offer implementation support. By working together, we can navigate the data analytics journey to empower power utilities with more efficient and reliable assets, contributing to a more sustainable future.

Contact us to discover how we can develop data analytics solutions for your power utility operations and drive your organization toward excellence.