As with other long-standing industries, the utility industry has followed a winding path when it comes to information technology. This has resulted in different elements of the business relying on tools that are disconnected from one another. Meeting modern needs for agility and efficiency requires understanding this journey and finding the right tools to break down silos moving forward.
The key elements of electricity grid management are generation, transmission, distribution, and customer relations. Traditionally, these components formed a straightforward flow from generation to customer. Today, however, many customers are tied into the grid as both generators and consumers via rooftop solar panels or other technologies. The modern grid is more complex than ever, and improved integration of critical technologies is vital.
A Brief History of Utilities in the Age of Computing
Electric utilities began with the invention of the light bulb in 1879. As technology improved, consumption increased, electric companies consolidated, and electricity became a ubiquitous commodity. Technology guided how the service was delivered, and the advent of modern computing paved the way for major innovation.
As computer technology emerged, electric companies relied on a combination of Outage Management Systems (OMS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems to handle outages and emergencies and control operations. Distribution Management Systems (DMS) also came into the picture, enabling better grid planning and operations management.
In the early days, networks were smaller and easier to maintain. Today, it is common for tens of thousands of changes to happen to a distribution system on a weekly basis. The result: OMS, DMS, and SCADA systems merged to form an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), a modular system that supports full distribution management and optimization.