Dashboards Will Govern the Smart Energy Ecosystem of the Future


clip_image002We’ve written before about how utility companies will need increasing integration among their IT and operational systems in order to meet the demands of the smart energy ecosystem, the one with two way power flows between consumer and power company, especially as fleets of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles come into being and renewable power sources add distributed generation to the grid.

Our partner Mariner, a company specializing in business intelligence, data warehousing, enterprise reporting and performance management solutions, has recently released a 9-minute video demonstration of its performance management solution that’s built on a raft of Microsoft solutions to create a dashboard system for monitoring fleet performance.

The video is built around a day in the life of Mariner Power & Light, a hypothetical utility company with three million customers and a fleet of power plants. The situation starts with James, a vice president for fossil generation, noticing an item in a dashboard that’s specifically tailored to top management’s concerns. Namely, the VP notices that the fleet is not operating at established levels and isn’t meeting commitments to the grid. Red flags of increased costs go up as  less efficient plants had to make up the shortfall.

James clip_image004calls Nick, a plant facility manager to find out what the problem is and whether it can be fixed.

Nick, enabled by integrated dashboards of his own, tracks the problem to one plant. Like a CSI sleuth, Nick clicks through a number of key performance indicators to narrow the glitch to a specific plant issue. After tracking delays in work order completions, James discovers the plant was not brought on line after a scheduled outage due to difficulty with some parts. And then, as with so many efforts to streamline costs, the parts issue comes down to a new inventory roll-out program that could affect all the plants.

In response, Nick identifies the inventory roll out as challenge that needs to be addressed through MPL’s continuous improvement program that assigns owners to correcting the problem. 

The video clearly demonstrates how utility management can benefit from having fleet-wide performance data available at their fingertips. Not only can executives and plant managers identify problems, they can work to end future issues of the same type through an integrated communication platform that puts everyone on the same page.

We salute Mariner for their work in putting this video together. It’s easy to understand and it clearly shows the power of dashboards to integrate plant operations, trouble shoot current problems, and identify future potential pitfalls. As utilities work to keep their reliability up to the mark in a new operating environment, they’ll find that such dashboards are indispensable to their mission. – Jon Arnold