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Utilities Lag Behind in GIS Data for Smart Grid

U.S. utilities must improve and integrate customer and infrastructure data before a smart grid can be effectively implemented, according to a benchmark study conducted by Esri.

Of the 226 study respondents, 71 percent believe geographic information system (GIS) technology is strategic to the smart grid, while the remaining 29 percent believe GIS plays a significant role.

The Esri report, “Is your GIS Smart Grid Ready?,” finds that utilities report a lag time of up to 90 days to move data from the field into the GIS. In addition, respondents report that data accuracy is “spotty” and data is either incomplete or not GPS accurate. Only 15 percent of respondents report high confidence (less than 2 percent errors) in their GIS data.

Respondent says that the biggest challenges in having smart-grid ready GIS are staffing and budget constraints, followed by educating management about why GIS is critical to a smart grid.

Other findings reveal that only about 10 percent of the companies update GIS data within one day of work completion, and about 25 percent say work orders older than six months still need to be added to the GIS database.

Esri says utility operators will need GIS for smart-grid requirements such as collecting and updating data and managing the installation of smart meters and sensors. GIS is also seen as a critical tool for analyzing energy consumption and incorporating renewable energy resources.

A 2009 Pike Research report indicates that more than 250 million smart meters will be installed worldwide by 2015, representing a penetration rate of 18 percent of all electrical meters, up from 46 million in 2008.

In April, about 45 companies and organizations united in an effort to push for greater national integration of the smart grid, pointing to a potential $46 billion in nationwide energy savings.

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