Energy generation and distribution isn’t just for utilities anymore.
In a previous post about microgrids, I mentioned New York University and the teaching hospital of Tohuku Fukushi University in Sendai, Japan as two notable microgrids. In both cases, microgrids helped the facilities survive and function after a major catastrophe (Hurricane Sandy and the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, respectively). Other public sector organizations, including military bases and jails, are also generating and distributing energy through microgrids.
The private sector is also getting into microgrids. According to a 2015 report from Deloitte, “a solid majority (55 percent) of businesses say they generate some portion of their electricity supply on-site, up from 44 percent in 2014.” That’s growth of 25 percent in a single year. In particular, two-thirds of technology, media, and telecommunications companies report generating energy on-site.
Although they are generating and distributing energy, none of these organizations are utilities. Their core competencies lie elsewhere. Managing energy is something that they do to lower operating costs and increase reliability of service. That means that they need an easy way to run their energy operations with minimal staff and effort.
Situational intelligence could help these customer-owned microgrids, in two main ways.
One, situational intelligence applications unite disparate data sources scattered across large organizations This allows energy planners and operators in non-utility organizations to draw on all relevant data to solve their energy-related challenges, while avoiding the tedious and time-consuming work of locating, cleaning and correlating data sets by hand.
Two, situational intelligence applications provide analytic and automation capabilities that enable small staffs to operate complex systems such as microgrids. That helps keep operating costs low, which is part of the purpose of customer microgrids.
It’s not that large public and private organizations don’t need utilities anymore. The utility grid still provides primary and backup power, plus offers a channel to participate in the wider energy market through surplus energy sales. However, the increasing availability and ease of advanced analytics, distributed energy generation and industrial automation through the Internet of Things make microgrids a viable way to realize increased reliability at lower costs.