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April 10, 2014

Data Analytics Coming to the Smart Grid

George Leopold

The IQ of the smart grid rose this week with the acquisition of a leading provider of data analytics to utilities by green technology specialist Sensus.

Sensus, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, announced this week it would acquire startup Verdeeco, a smart grid analytics vendor. The Atlanta-based company’s flagship product is a grid analytics engine dubbed GridDNA. The cloud-based platform blends artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to improve grid efficiency, the company said.

In announcing the deal, Sensus said Verdeeco would remain a separate brand but operate under its new parent’s umbrella. Additional terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This and other big data analytics tools can be applied to electric, water, and gas utilities. Sensus officials added that they plan to use Verdeeco’s technology for a range of smart grid applications like load aggregation and transformer utilization, as well as alert and alarm management.

The Sensus-Verdeeco deal also illustrates the growing importance of big data tools as utilities begin to gather more data from smart sensors, including utility meters, being installed in homes. The data avalanche also includes external sources like local and regional weather forecasts.

“The importance of data in our industry revolves around not only the ability to gather it from disparate sources, but to generate actionable insights that help utilities realize greater value from their technology investments,” Sensus president Randy Bays noted in a statement.

Verdeeco has focused on helping utilities aggregate data from smart meters, supervisory control and data acquisition systems, customer billing software and weather forecasts. The applications are hosted on a secure cloud via its “Grid as a Service” platform.

As the nation’s power grid ages, utilities are attempting to retrofit smart grid technologies. Market analysts note that utilities are trying to shift from managing data to applying data analytics to their operations.

With renewable energy sources like solar contributing more electricity to the power grid, utilities could use what the industry calls “demand response analytics” to determine when, for example, to release these new power sources during periods of peak load demand.

Such tools could also be used to provide incentives to customers to use less energy during periods of peak demand or high wholesale market prices on the power grid.

Leveraging data analytics, utilities can operate in a “more predictive mode,” according to Mike Smith of the Utility Analytics Institute.

Data analytics are also being touted as a way for utilities to maximize their investment in communications networks and network applications that stitch together the emerging smart grid.

Verdeeco also claims its implementation of machine learning in GridDNA can be scaled up to handle the kinds of very large and complex data sets typical of big data applications.

Sensus also acquires Verdeeco’s 10 utility customers along with its “apps store” that provides customers with access to data analytics tools.

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