How Big Data, Advanced Analytics can help India’s Discoms poor financial and operational health

Although data analytics is not new to the Discoms industry, which has long used spreadsheets to analyse information, organisations are increasingly looking to harness the benefits of Big Data and Advanced Analytics across the value chain.

Big Data and Advanced Analytics has been delivering significant value and creating competitive advantage for organisations across industries. Although data analytics is not new to the , which has long used spreadsheets to analyse information, organisations are increasingly looking to harness the benefits of Big Data and Advanced Analytics across the value chain.

The Discoms sector in India has witnessed poor financial and operational health primarily due to subsidised pricing, theft, inefficient billing and collection and below average quality of network infrastructure. In the recent past, the Government of India has launched several schemes such as IPDS, DDUGJY and UDAY to assist distribution utilities in improving operational and financial efficiency and to undertake network expansion and modernisation. All of these initiatives entail expansion of data sources from consumers, assets and third party data, coupled with the adoption of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and other asset sensors. With this data foundation in place, utilities can look at applying analytics for strategic planning, optimising operations, managing assets, reducing operational costs and improving the customer experience.

Our global experience shows that optimal use of analytics within a smart grid program can help utilities: Improve customer relationships and enhance the revenue stream through more regular and targeted demand response programs, which boosts customer loyalty and minimizes wasted spend. Real time analytics can be used to alert customers and the Discom on abnormal usage spikes due to natural or unnatural circumstances. Utilities could look at a win-win for the customers and themselves by charging a fee for the VAS services like power on demand for commercial consumers. The consumer would be empowered to rationalize expenses on electricity by planning usage and eliminate the need for utilities to purchase expensive power during peak hours.

Reduce power procurement cost. Power procurement costs comprise 75% to 80% of the costs of a distribution utility and thus there is a potential for huge savings via improvement in forecasting accuracy and developing optimised portfolios. A Demand Forecasting and Power portfolio analytics solution would help provide on a real-time basis for every per-defined interval the forecasted energy demand, projected availability from multiple sources (own sources, central sources, captive power plants), prevailing grid frequency and frequency trend analysis for undertaking power purchase decisions. As electricity markets deregulate further, this solution will enable Discoms to optimise the power procurement costs and drive long term financial viability.

Achieve greater network reliability and resilience, with real-time and GIS, automated updates about grid/equipment status and operations through IoT analytics. Faults and outages can be isolated and addressed more quickly and effectively. Further, data on performance of equipment, equipment lifecycle stage, and sub-component level failure history can be used to suggest prioritisation of preventive maintenance activities. Predicting asset failures before they occur helps in enhanced asset productivity and provides a better customer experience.

Generate value (revenue) from core assets like customer data. Utilities have rich consumer data at their disposal. Data insights from the consumer load capacity, consumption, etc. can help act as a proxy for the type of assets being used by the consumer. Electronics players can use this data for targeted customer programs. Data around electricity consumption history and bill payment history would be a good and reliable supplement to the banks and other lending institutes in understanding the paying capacity and credit worthiness of an entity and identification of prospects.

Enhance environmental performance and compliance, by enabling more effective tracking of power supply and demand, and incorporation of renewable energy sources into the grid. Protect revenues and reduce commercial losses by deploying Theft and Tamper Detection Analytics Solutions. The solution would read data from the meters, related read events and integrate with geospatial data to analyse the work orders with tamper events to derive insights around the tamper and theft incidents.

For Indian Discoms looking to realize the true value of advanced analytics, they should consider: Design analytical objectives in line with business processes that can help improve efficiency and achieve business objectives. Deploy analytics infrastructure that allows them to generate useful insights quickly, with modular architecture to ensure lower cost, flexibility and scalability for future use cases.

Partner with analytics experts in conjunction with in-house capability and capacity building to jump start the journey and drive business outcomes. Leverage the leading practices of other industries such as Telecommunications and Retail that face similar challenges in designing architectures to support low-latency analytics.

The author is Partner, Advanced Analytics & Data Sciences, PwC India

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