BC Hydro is the primary electric provider in British Columbia, Canada, with more than 18 000 km of transmission lines, 260 substations, 41 dam sites and 30 hydro facilities spread across an area of nearly one million square kilometres. Headquartered in Vancouver, BC Hydro has a large and diverse service area consisting of dense urban, suburban, rural and extremely remote areas, each with their own unique set of operational challenges.
Integrating data from two million smart meters and 30 network systems
In 2011, BC Hydro began an ambitious smart grid project that included replacing old electro-mechanical meters with nearly two million state-of-the-art smart meters. The company undertook its industry-leading smart grid rollout with the goals of improving energy efficiency and reliability in the region while reducing losses and more quickly identifying power outages.
As electric utilities become more connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), they often experience challenges managing the massive volumes and variety of data generated by connected devices, sensors, smart meters and other networked systems throughout their operations. Without the ability to integrate all of this siloed data into a common model and application, it is difficult for utilities to gain a holistic view of their smart grid operations or identify potential risks in real time.
As BC Hydro began its smart meter roll-out, the leadership quickly recognised that without the right technology, it would face significant challenges integrating and analysing such a large volume of data from so many different sources.
Before deploying smart meters, BC Hydro manually read meters once every two months, managing approximately 30 000 data values per day. Upon implementing nearly two million smart meters, BC Hydro immediately began gathering approximately 237 million data values per day, including registers, intervals and events. Planned enhancements to the smart grid will bring the total to approximately 678 million data values per day. Additionally, because many of BC Hydro’s systems hold six months of data for analysis purposes, the utility is tasked with managing, analysing and identifying trends among 122 billion data values.
Enter Bit Stew Systems
BC Hydro partnered with Bit Stew Systems to help design a data architecture that would quickly and easily integrate data from the nearly two million smart meters, more than 5000 relays, 2000 routers and 30 different operational and IT systems, including home-grown and legacy platforms.
By implementing Bit Stew’s MIx product portfolio – including MIx Core and MIx Director Suite – BC Hydro has been able to integrate AMI data from the smart grid along with data from grid-asset health tracking systems, distribution grid management systems, field dispatch systems, work management systems such as SAP, customer information systems, Itron’s AMI system, meter data management systems, geospatial information systems (GIS) and more. Using adaptive stream computing and a semantic data modelling, MIx Core quickly integrates complex operational and IT data into a common data model. It applies machine learning and predictive analytics to recognise patterns automatically, detect anomalies and automate responses to help operators triage situations.
BC Hydro also implemented Bit Stew’s MIx Director Suite, which can apply real-time analytics to the data, generating rich visualisations and providing a ‘single pane of glass’ view that enables operators to see important activity happening across the smart grid. It provides a dashboard interface that enables operators more easily to assess situations, manage alerts and alarms, and gain the actionable intelligence they need in order to make informed decisions more quickly.
For BC Hydro, the MIx Director Suite covers the following use cases, purpose-built for Electric utilities:
• Network and sensor deployment.
• Advanced network communications management.
• Network planning and optimisation.
• Networked distribution asset management.
• Network and asset security.
• Energy visualisation portal.
• Deployment management.
• In home display (IHD) unit registration and management.
Fast data integration and operational insights that improve grid performance Bit Stew’s MIx Core and MIx Director Suite enable operators at BC Hydro to manage hundreds of millions of data elements every day.
Using Bit Stew’s MIx technology, BC Hydro’s operators now have a contextual view of the entire operation. They can easily access geospatial views of all grid assets and generate real-time visualisations of meter outages, communications performance issues, distribution grid load and voltage issues, as well as other critical events.
By integrating hundreds of millions of data points, alerts and events from multiple systems, filtering out the ‘noise’ and displaying only the most important events on a visual dashboard, MIx Director Suite enables operators to identify and prioritise critical issues. This real-time, situational intelligence enables operators to manage the grid more effectively and rapidly enact decisions that improve operational performance – such as more quickly identifying outages and mobilising field crews to restore power faster.
With Bit Stew’s MIx product portfolio, BC Hydro is able to:
• Efficiently triage hundreds of millions of data elements every day.
• Quickly integrate data from nearly two million smart meters, more than 30 network systems and thousands of network assets.
• See real-time displays of meter outages and geospatial views of grid assets.
• Better identify and prioritise issues and alerts.
• Better manage meter-to-grid performance such as voltage issues, system restoration and more.
• Identify and reconcile any data discrepancies across separate systems to ensure data accuracy everywhere.
Complex event processing that enabled BC Hydro to weather the storm
One example of the benefits provided by the complex event processing and operational insights made possible by Bit Stew’s technology occurred in August 2015, when Vancouver Island was hit with an unexpected and intense wind storm. More than 700 000 customers – representing nearly half of all BC Hydro customers in the area – were suddenly without electricity. Using MIx Director Suite, BC Hydro’s operators were able to quickly gather power outage notifications sent by each smart meter, view them graphically according to each meter’s loss of power, and even use meter pings to look for nested outages within the larger outage. As a result, BC Hydro was able to mobilise crews faster. Over the course of just three days, crews replaced approximately 200 power poles, 500 broken cross-arms on pole tops, fixed 25 damaged transmission circuits and replaced 10 000 metres of wire and more than 1200 pieces of electrical equipment.
Customers would have been without power much longer if BC Hydro did not have the ability to prioritise alerts and quickly gain operational insights from the smart grid data.
Customisable, data-enabled applications
Another benefit that Bit Stew’s MIx solutions have provided BC Hydro is the ability to customise data visualisations and reports, and easily purpose-build custom applications to meet their needs.
“With its easy-to-use dashboard interface, MIx Director Suite gives me instant access to the operational analytics I need. I don’t have to wait for someone to run a report, create a cube or load a data warehouse,” explains David De Yagher, senior manager, Field Device Operations at BC Hydro. “Bit Stew’s technology contributes to our bottom line by providing quicker response time to information that’s presented to us, such as identifying choke points in order to understand where situations are occurring that are disruptive to our business. It allows me to make the most intelligent use of the data without having to employ additional data scientists and analysts.”
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