The dramatic changes in the utility industry are continuing to transform the requirements being put on utilities, the work that utility does and how they perform their activities. This revolution comes on top of the natural evolution of a highly technology focused industry that has historically deployed continuous changing tools, devices, and systems. Many of these are highly integrated solutions that in addition to providing enhanced value, also add to ever increasing complexity of the utility operational technology landscape. Adding to the technological advances and the increased complexity of this integrated solution architecture, the various systems are aging and reaching end-of-life or requiring upgrades and investments in an uncoupled fashion.
The issues that this situation presents, coupled with the expense of these capital-intensive projects, make it critical that utilities develop a near and long-term plan on what the optimum course of action is. Given the criticality of this effort, rather than doing this in an unstructured fashion, Black & Veatch recommends that utilities adopt a Grid Modernization Master Planning approach to answers their technology, implementation and investment needs. Some of the questions that must be answered include:
- How can we get more value out of our current investments?
- What are our current gaps and needs, and how will these change?
- Are there improved integration approaches that reduce ongoing O&M or improve reliability?
- What are our priorities for system replacements?
- What will the future look like and how can we prepare?
- Can new programs and technology allow us to introduce new services to increase revenues?
While most utilities will be looking at similar questions and have similar sets of systems and core technologies, every utility has a unique set of specific current solutions, corporate goals, funds and priorities.
Black & Veatch has developed an approach to assist utilities with their Infrastructure Modernization Master Planning. This approach has evolved with key lessons learned from completing both technology assessments as well as scores of actual technology related projects over the last several decades. Our approach is comprised of a proven methodology supported by relevant artifacts and leveraging Black & Veatch’s deep understanding of past, current and future utility solution architectures. Our approach considers the people and process aspects as well as the technology components.
The desired goal of the master planning activity is to provide a documented plan that provides a roadmap for current focus and future investments. The roadmap defines priorities, gaps, risks, uncertainties and other key aspects of the plan. As with every good plan, it will change over time so it must remain flexible, but without this plan, utilities are challenged with identifying the optimum path to pursue.
This new perspective report takes a comprehensive look at how utilities can prepare for the challenges that grid modernization will present. The report also shares key planning steps and considerations for utility executives.
By Kevin Cornish, Senior Managing Director of Growth & Performance
Black & Veatch Management Consulting, LLC