Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is used to automate repetitive, manual, time-consuming, rule-based tasks, or to establish a fully automated end-to-end process with the aid of a “software robot”. RPA bots easily adapt to any interface or workflow, without having to change business systems, applications, or existing processes.

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Develop stronger customer relationships by placing award-winning CX at the heart of your brand

The utility of the future is putting customers at the center of their strategies. The industry has embraced technology to improve overall customer experience, focus on new lines of business, and expand their partnerships. By investing in Oracle CX, utilities are increasing customer satisfaction, expanding product and service offerings, lowering supporting costs, and ultimately growing their customer base.

Download the full 1-pager here to learn more about the power of Oracle CX.

 

Written by Michael Cocroft, Managing Partner and CSO for Red Clay

Over the last two decades, utilities have been pressed to modernize information technology (IT) at a growing pace. Circa 2000, when Red Clay started our journey, many utilities opted for a tangible approach to managing systems. Mainframe, networks and PCs were the preferred solution so the only choice was to:

  • Go through a cumbersome procurement and implementation process
  • Build an organization to support our systems
  • Host, manage and upgrade them in-house

This has been such a heavy lift for utilities, that there hasn’t been much time to look up, see where the industry is heading and put plans in place to move steadily in the same direction.

Where does this leave us today?

As an industry, we are coming face-to-face with the fact that we did not:

  • Know that the increasing complexity of systems and networks would eventually create a scenario where IT management would become so resource-intensive and fast-moving that we wouldn’t be able to keep up
  • Realize that the demand for visibility into billing, balancing load with demand, and being responsive to customers will only grow
  • Prepare for an increase in data, which requires better means for ferreting out the information that will help operations personnel accomplish tasks effectively
  • Understand that there is always going to be more, so new opportunities to corral the beast should be at the forefront of business planning conversations

While this sounds like a lot of “did NOTS”, the good news is that someone DID.

Giving SaaS Solutions the Shoutout they Deserve

We’re halfway into 2021 and while a lot of things that the Jetson’s or Blade Runner promised haven’t transpired, a lot has thanks to Cloud Computing’s Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Take Blade Runner’s Replicants or George Jetson’s maid-robot, Rosie. Harnessing the computing power into a robot brain to provide a truly sentient experience is possible today because of SaaS.

There has been enough education in recent years that nearly all utility professionals know what SaaS is and why it’s valuable. As a result, many are now traveling down the path of a Cloud-first IT transformation strategy which includes creating a roadmap for moving Systems of Innovation,  Systems of Differentiation or Systems of Record to a SaaS environment whereby there is an external connection (via the internet) to computing resources accessed.

It allows you to access them as if they were in your home or building with full support from a remote computer administrator, database administrator, network administrator and a huge IT team. Like system capacity, these resources can be scaled up and down as needed and you only pay for what you use. For example, there’s no IT spend for systems to be able to handle large batch processes. SaaS solutions are providing utility organizations with the advanced capabilities they need to lead in the new. We’re no longer tied to build to capacity, we’re only tied to capabilities, which we as a business define.

The Case for (SaaS) Managed Services

Because the Cloud hosting shifts IT responsibilities to a Cloud provider, the question utilities are asking is if they still need a third-party Managed Services provider to maintain and upgrade their applications, especially their Systems of Record like the Customer Information System (CIS) and Meter Data Management System (MDM).

Let me be the first to admit that at first blush this sounds like someone using your watch to tell you the time. But, in the age of Cloud computing, utilities that partner with a Managed Services provider (with deep SaaS expertise) are able to offload the entire ecosystem of IT system management and continuous system improvement activities to third-party experts.

The table below gives examples of what is typically handled by SaaS Providers versus Managed Services Providers:

  • Cloud Provider Roles
  • Ensuring network connectivity
  • Managing data security including malicious software and virus solutions
  • Conducting backups, disaster recovery and business continuity
  • Implementing upgrades and patches
  • Advising the utility on what capabilities are available, and how to achieve the most benefit
  • Be the middleman between the big SaaS provider, and the business, using knowledge of the business and the provider to seamlessly weave a complete offering
  • Facilitate the acceptance of upgrades through supporting the automation of regression testing
  • Managed Services Provider Roles
  • Guiding utility-specific IT strategy and growth management
  • Conducting business impact analysis
  • Conducting business impact analysis
  • Proactively watching for changes or updates, and communicating and/or training on those changes
  • Advising the utility on what capabilities are available, and how to achieve the most benefit
  • Be the middleman between the big SaaS provider, and the business, using knowledge of the business and the provider to seamlessly weave a complete offering
  • Facilitate the acceptance of upgrades through supporting the automation of regression testing

SaaS + Managed Services: A Case Study Perspective

“UtilCo” has a need to change rates and calculations because, after a very lengthy battle, it was finally able to close a rate case and now needs to put the new rates in place. “Joan”, a project manager, has been put in charge of the changes necessary to facilitate this in UtilCo’s systems.

In the old world, Joan and other internal folks would have been responsible for:

  • Planning and hosting team meetings
  • Identifying necessary changes
  • Allocating the right internal resources to make the changes
  • Developing and Managing the project plan
  • Developing a plan to support the systems involved to meet organizational SLAs
  • Meeting the deadlines and ultimately going live

Because Joan has a trusted third-party Managed Services provider—folks who do similar rate changes for utility companies around the country—she sends them a description of the rates and answers their questions.

What she has come to expect from her Managed Services provider is an open line of communication to share her needs and get back a timeline with commitments through timely and transparent communications. And, because they are genuinely a partner, they knew this request was coming and have worked behind the scenes to make sure Joan’s request would be delivered on-time with no hiccups.

In the background, Joan’s SaaS Provider is ensuring that the platform is running seamlessly. Their data recovery operation is replicating their data to multiple locations around the country, and their hundreds of cybersecurity staff are constantly monitoring and aggressively moving to make sure all that data is secure. No input from Joan or the utility is necessary, it’s just part of the service. What used to require interaction and planning, budgeting and procurement, HR and Hiring is now just done. A commodity.

Does this mean that Joan has solutioned herself and her team into joblessness? Hardly. Joan now has time to “look up”, as mentioned earlier, and put transformation plans in place to keep pace with the industry’s direction.

Get Ready; Get Set; The Art of the Possible is Around the Corner

When I hear people talking about the benefits of SaaS today, a lot of focus is placed on the opportunity to significantly reduce spend on core systems. While this is true, you’re cutting yourself short if that’s your only expectation.

Partnering with a SaaS CIS and/or MDM Provider along with a modern Managed Services Partner is a major business and IT department upgrade. In addition to freeing you up to focus on critical transformation projects, it can deliver the following benefits:

  • Manage budget by only paying SaaS provider for what you use and fixed prices for Managed Services
  • Establish SLAs and TMs
  • Further capitalize on your AMI investment
  • Take advantage of leading-edge technology to free up resources for new focus areas
  • Improve customer communications, and the overall customer experience

And this is only the beginning.

Reflecting back on The Jetson’s robot maid, Rosie, we’ve got something “similar” to her brain in the form of cloud-hosted systems like Amazon’s Alexa. Alexa sends your questions up to the Cloud, processes them and answers them via an artificial voice with real-time immediacy. But between the time that Rosie was conceptualized (in the early 60’s) and Alexa was introduced in 2014, “Rosie” has been upgraded in several ways including morphing from a clunky piece of metal to a small, sleek countertop device.

Ongoing technology advancements—what I’m calling the “art of the possible”—is what we see with all innovative technologies. Moving Systems of Record to a true SaaS environment, with a Managed Services provider leading utility industry-specific actions, will be no exception. To that point, there’s no reason we can’t start working towards generating a customer’s bill with the same ease as Alexa answers questions. “Alexa, please generate a bill for premise 2782738”.  “Here’s your bill for premise 2782738”. “Thanks, Alexa.”

SDG&E USES CENTRALIZED CALCULATION ENGINE TO OFFER CUSTOMERS MORE OPTIONS

Consumers expect more value from utilities in the way of lower bills and more flexible options. These requests may seem simple, but they often involve complex changes at utilities. Delivery usually requires the complete reconfiguration or replacement of multifaceted systems to enhance the way utilities process and distribute data. These changes often mean long, multi-year endeavors that require careful planning, coordination, and execution, before utilities or customers see results. Even still, a leading utility embraced the challenge to help customers save by using better data to deliver better options.

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) evaluated their complex billing capabilities in 2014 and determined that the accuracy, reliability, and speed of the current system was insufficient for to meet customer expectations. SDG&E needed better data, faster and opted for a dynamic new system to improve internal and external processes. The resulting custom Centralized Calculation Engine (CCE) transformed data processing and analysis at SDG&E.

These changes improved operations throughout the organization and lead to new, customer-focused initiatives to drive engagement and satisfaction. The CCE also enables stakeholders to evaluate the potential impact of future change on various customer groups to ensure that proposed adjustments are fair for all.

The More You Know

WHAT IS A CCE?

Tool that uses real-time customer data to determine the potential impact of rate adjustments on various customer populations without changing or otherwise impacting actual customer information.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The CCE combines Oracle’s Billing Component, Load Profiling & Settlement, and Quotations Management application, to create a single destination for customer data, meter interval usage data, and rate scenario data. Together, these disparate sources reveal powerful new insights that help improve operations and service.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

With a new CCE, SDG&E provides more value to customers, partners, and other stakeholders. The new, completely automated system reduces processing times and errors while introducing new opportunities to engage customers.

OUTCOMES:

Better, faster: complete automation cut calculation times from several months to within a week— reducing error and associated corrections along the way. More accurate calculations, enable SDG&E to find answers more quickly and have more confidence in their veracity.

CREATING VALUE:

End customers win with this new system thanks to its ability to quickly analyze data and provide insights that support new programs. One of these new offerings encourages customers to compare their existing rate- selection to other, potentially more cost-effective options, recommended to them based on their unique usage patterns. This tool models potential monthly and annual savings amounts to help customers understand how changes could impact costs in the short and long term.

THE SDG&E DIFFERENCE:

SDG&E takes pride in being a leader in American energy. Their work with regulators, service providers, and industry experts yields groundbreaking advances in service and response for utilities. The implementation of this custom CCE enriches SDG&E’s ability to do even more. Using such granular information to drive strategy and engagement creates a model for other utilities around the nation and the world. For instance, SDG&E’s use of the CCE ahead of General Rate Case (GRC) filings cuts the time it takes to present and defend new rates to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). In preparation for these filings, SDGE tests the impact of new rates on various customer populations and compares them to existing rates and outcomes. These comparative analytics allows SDG&E to quickly respond to rebuttals or changes requested by the CPUC or other stakeholders. As a result, SDG&E shaves months off the overall process while delivering more accurate results.

1. DETERMINED WHICH COMPONENTS ARE REQUIRED:
  • Billing Component (BC)
  • Load Profiling and Settlement (LPS)
  • Quotations Management (QM)
2. IDENTIFIED WHICH DATA POINTS WILL FEED THE SYSTEM:
  • Customer information data
  • Meter interval usage data
  • Rate scenario data
3. INCORPORATED USER PREFERENCE INTO THE DESIGN:

Red Clay worked with teams across SDG&E’s organization to determine which functions would enhance their ability to perform. Their input resulted in the development of a popular feature of the CCE, Rate Scenario Manager (RSM); an individual virtual environment that allows users to modify rates and settings without disturbing the integrity of real data. RSM allows users to modify six dimensions of account populations at will.

  • Base Rate
  • Interval Data
  • Number of Tiers
  • TOU Schedule
  • Pricing
  • Customer Charge Type

With these new capabilities, users can explore how changes in supply, demand, and price impact load within specific periods among certain customers. This information helps SDG&E understand and predict how solar and other factors could impact business.

How did they do it?

SDG&E commissioned Red Clay, a leading software integrator serving utilities, to implement a custom-configured CCE. Using Oracle products, Red Clay enhanced SDG&E’s ability to serve customers. After working collaboratively with various SDG&E stakeholders, Red Clay determined which product features to augment to deliver the functionality required.

With these new capabilities, users can explore how changes in supply, demand, and price impact load within specific periods among certain customers. This information helps SDG&E understand and predict how solar and other factors could impact business.

“Creating the right solution and implementing it in a collaborative environment were key components to the success of the project.” — NATALIA AGRELA, DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

SDG&E’s implementation of CCE helped clear the way for new initiatives and rate structures. SDG&E launched a program to allow customers to charge Electric Vehicles cars at multiple locations under a single account. Real-time pricing data from California’s Independent System Operator and meter data from multiple third parties charging stations unite via the CCE to calculate single bills for users. This initiative makes driving EVs easier and more convenient for environmentally conscious Californians and is just one of the ways SDG&E is using the CCE to improve their service to customers.

ABOUT SAN DIEGO GAS & ELECTRIC

San Diego Gas & Electric serves a diverse geographical territory that encompasses approximately 4,100 square miles and serves customers in the counties of San Diego and Orange, including approximately 25 cities. SDG&E provides both natural gas and electric services in San Diego County and electric services in Orange County. SDG&E has approximately 1.4 million electric customers and 850,000 natural gas customers throughout the service territory. SDG&E is a subsidiary of Sempra Energy.

ABOUT RED CLAY

Red Clay, a leading consultancy for utilities, delivers seamless integrations of leading software systems. Industry experience, technical expertise and an unyielding commitment to client success combine to deliver turnkey solutions that maximize value. As a Gold Level member of the Oracle Partner Network (OPN), Red Clay Consulting is the preferred choice for software integration and managed services among utilities. Their unparalleled experience, expertise and execution fuels project success. To learn more about Red Clay, visit www.redclay.com.

The intricate technology framework that must be mastered to successfully implement new utility Meter Data Management (MDM) and Operational Device Management (ODM) systems—simultaneously—is no small undertaking. Approaching this in the context of a five-year technology roadmap that involves replacing nearly every major IT system, including the customer information system (CIS)— on a condensed timeline—makes this challenge even more arduous.

In preparation for a new Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing (CC&B) system implementation that is scheduled for completion in 2018, Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) hired Red Clay Consulting to embark on this undertaking because of its stellar reputation with multiple, sometimes simultaneous implementations.

At KCP&L the MDM and ODM are being positioned to support a multi-year Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) replacement project that started in 2014. This project replaces all existing KCP&L Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) (oneway) meters with new Landis + Gyr AMI (two-way) meters. Utilizing a multi-phase approach, one of KCP&L’s main goals is to reduce risks associated with its Oracle Utilities CC&B implementation and subsequent bill quality.

Additional benefits of the multi-phase approach implementation include allowing the users to get familiar with the Oracle Utilities Application Framework (OUAF), the foundation for all of KCP&L’s systems including: ODM, MDM and CC&B, along with gaining comfort with the User Interface, search functionality and lite configuration. This enables KCP&L’s information technology (IT) team to become comfortable with the architecture since it will be similar across all products including environment builds, troubleshooting and patching, to name a few.

THE SOLUTION

The successful completion of the MDM and ODM implementations in May 2015 introduced new functionality to KCP&L to support key business goals and positioned the utility for a smooth implementation of CC&B. With its new MDM in place, KCP&L is now a central repository for all usage data produced by three head-end systems (HES) across three separate operating companies. This data is automatically stored, validated and cleansed. One of the most important requirements of the MDM project is to have at least two years of billworthy data ready in MDM for when CC&B goes live. Interval data is now being collected for all customers, and for a select number of customers, voltage information is also collected. Before AMI rollout and MDM, interval data was only collected for commercial & industrial customers.

With ODM now in place, KCP&L has a central repository for all meter assets (AMI and AMR), all meter attributes and all meter testing data. Before this, data was spread across several systems. Depending on the operating company an operator would choose which systems to pull information from, whereas now ODM houses a complete data set.

The project was broken into two phases (see figure 1.) In the first phase, the goal was to integrate two HES using Oracle Utilities Smart Grid Gateway (SGG) to receive real-time Outage and Restoration events from the HES and send them to Oracle Utilities Network Management System (NMS)—both via SGG. The integrations in the second phase revolved around several systems for meter testing data loaded onto ODM, and usage export of finalized data to Oracle Utilities Load Analysis, executed from both NMS and MDM user interfaces.

Project Details

PHASE I

Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management (MDM), Oracle Utilities Smart Grid Gateway (SGG), and the productized integration of SGG for Outage Operations with Oracle Utilities Network Management System (NMS).

PROJECT SCOPE

  • Integrate with two (HES); Landis + Gyr Command Center using the SGG productized adapter and CellNet USC using the SGG Adapter Development Kit (ADK) to receive real-time Outage and Restoration events from the HESs and send them downstream to NMS, both via SGG.
  • SGG to receive single and bulk Status Check (Ping) Commands from NMS to the corresponding HES, via SGG, for validation of power restoration. This also included integration with one of KCP&L’s Customer Information Systems (CIS).

PHASE II

Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management (MDM), Oracle Utilities Smart Grid Gateway (SGG), Oracle Utilities Operational Device Management (ODM), Oracle Utilities Analytics (OUA) for MDM.

PROJECT SCOPE

  • Integrations included two Customer Information Systems (CIS), two additional HES’; Itron FCS and Itron MV-90, WECO for meter testing data loaded into ODM, and usage export of finalized usage data to Oracle Utilities Load Analysis.
  • Usage load for 15 minute and five minute data, daily reads, monthly reads, and events from the HESs, as well as validation-editing-estimation (VEE), bill determinant calculation, device configuration, status and firmware validation with HES, and device commands (On- Demand Read, Connect/Disconnect, Status Check) executed from both NMS and MDM user interface.

New Technology Reduces Costs, Risk and Restoration Time

After the successful MDM go-live in May 2015, the new system was quickly put to the test. In the early morning hours of Friday, June 26, 2015, a major storm knocked out power to more than 110,000 KCP&L customers, the largest outage since 2002. Working around the clock, KCP&L crews were able to restore customer power by Sunday. According to the spokesperson at the utility, “The combination of our new AMI meters, Outage Management System and MDM integration shaved two days off our storm recovery time. During storm situations, we’re able to ping the meters remotely to verify restoration, whereas in the past, a truck would roll to a house that already had power restored just to verify. Since we are only sending truck rolls to true outage areas, we are able to restore power quicker, because manpower is focused on the correct areas.”

Not only does the system help KCP&L’s operation run more smoothly during outage times, the utility is also better positioned to mitigate risks for its upcoming CC&B implementation. The MDM now handles all integration with KCP&L’s three HES (L+G AMI, Itron FCS, Itron MV-90) as well as capturing billing quality reads from each system. The billing manager at KCP&L stated, “By delivering MDM early, we get an extra 18 months to tune our VEE rules and verify the quality of the MDM billing determinants. This will allow us to focus on bill calculations, rates and the like during CC&B instead of worrying about getting the right meter reads delivered.”

Strong Teamwork Leads to Successful Go Live

The teams at Red Clay and KCP&L pushed past many obstacles to deliver the project successfully by the targeted go-live date. One KCP&L team member commented, “MDM is the little engine that could. This project team never quit—no matter what. It’s like one big puzzle that works.”

Director of Professional Services at Red Clay and KCP&L project lead, Leeanna Gonzalez, shared key lessons learned from the KCP&L integration:

PARTNERSHIP

The relationship between the utility and its implementation vendor should be a partnership, where they plan and execute the implementation in a phased approach. When strong partnership is present, stressful elements of a project can be more easily overcome.

FLEXIBILITY

Being flexible and open to adopting new business processes that the new software will require is key. There should be little expectation of ‘doing things the same way because that’s how they were always done.’ New systems bring new processes and room for improvement.

SUPPORT

Ensure that a team is in place that will support and own the system after go-live. Many MDM implementations are not replacements so it can be difficult for a utility to understand, when operating alone, what needs to be done to care for the system and provide guidance to the new team.

ABOUT KANSAS CITY POWER & LIGHT COMPANY

Kansas City Power and Light Company is an investor- owned, regulated electric utility company serving more than 800,000 customers in 47 northwest Missouri and eastern Kansas counties. With a service area of about 18,000 square miles, it takes more than 3,000 miles of transmission lines, 24,000 miles of distribution lines and more than 400 substations to deliver power to its customers. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Great Plains Energy Incorporated, of which it is the biggest component. Learn more at www.KCP&L.com.

ABOUT RED CLAY

Founded in 2001, Atlanta-based Red Clay Consulting is a leading systems integration and consulting firm in the Energy and Utilities Industry. As a certified Oracle Gold Partner with an Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management 2 and Oracle Utilities Smart Grid Gateway 2 specialization, Red Clay is a Gold level member of the Oracle Partner Network (OPN) and implements enterprise solutions based on the Oracle Utilities framework. Red Clay is ambitiously led with integrity by industry experts who are proud to manage a team of dedicated, driven and enthusiastic employees. Visit www. redclay.com to learn more about our mission of doing what is right and fair for our clients, our employees and our company.

THE NEED FOR A BETTER SETTLEMENT SOLUTION AT AMEREN

Ameren

In 2013 St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri set out to create a more efficient and reliable settlement solution to aggregate the consumption and financial data available for its gas and electrictransmission networks. Ameren’s intent was to select the best possible solution and most efficient and costeffective path for a successful go-live. Timing of the implementation was strategic. Due to the complexities of managing separate services, Ameren wanted to first go- live with a settlement solution for its gas services before implementing the same solution for its electric service. Currently, Ameren’s gas services settlement process, which includes collecting and disseminating data, is managed internally without third party regulatory involvement. Electric services follow a regulated settlement process with an independent system operator (ISO), specifically Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO).

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PARTNER AND PRODUCT

Red Clay Consulting was selected as Ameren’s implementation partner because of its impeccable reputation of delivering a superior level of implementation services for utilities. Red Clay’s proprietary SmartGridONE (SG1) product was the perfect choice because of its ability to integrate with Ameren ́s existing Oracle Utilities Load Profiling and Settlement (LPS) implementation as well as the software’s flexibility to evolve alongside Ameren ́s needs. SmartGridONE (SG1) is Red Clay Consulting’s proven, flexible, and affordable meter-to-bill Smart Meter Data Management solution built on Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management (MDM) and Oracle Utilities Smart Grid Gateway (SGG). SG1 is designed to be a complete solution for small utilities or as an implementation accelerator for large utilities. Oracle Utilities MDM, a component of Oracle’s comprehensive Meter Solution, gathers and processes data from any type, variety, or brand of device. The application loads, validates, stores, and formats the data in ways that facilitate business processes across multiple internal and external systems. Oracle Utilities MDM was chosen as the central data repository and validation engine for Ameren’s gas and electric meter data.

AMEREN’S NEW SETTLEMENT PROCESS

November 2014 marked the completion of the entire settlement project, for over two million meters in both gas and electric services. Ameren now has a single meter data repository for its transmission business unit. The settlement process at Ameren involves the aggregating of settlement-ready data in Oracle Utilities MDM, the cleansing and validation of that data at the service point level, and finally, the downstream delivery of that data to the Oracle Utilities LPS system. The Oracle Utilities LPS system then performs higher-level aggregations and sends the information to MISO, on a daily basis. Two million records are sent daily to meet Ameren’s data commitments to MISO. The utility now has more data at its disposal than ever before; the data is clean and can be easily transmitted to all interested parties. Instead of a patchwork process working with a legacy platform, the solution is now automated, better supported and more adaptable to meet future requirements. “Red Clay and Ameren worked together to realize how a meter data management system can provide value beyond the meter-to-cash process,” said Chad Johnson, Red Clay’s Director of Product Development. “Ameren had the vision and saw value in improving the settlement process. They recognized that Oracle Utilities MDM is the most appropriate system to be responsible for data cleaning and aggregation. Choosing already existing solutions that are better and more supported is always preferable to customizing legacy software.”

“Selecting the right partner is critical to the success of innovative, first-of-a-kind implementations like ours,” said Keith Hock, Director, Transmission Technical Support at Ameren. “For us, Red Clay was the right partner for a successful project delivered on budget and on schedule.”

CONTRIBUTORS TO SUCCESS

When asked about contributors to the success of this project, Johnson stated, “When working with multiple vendors at a utility, it is critical that all parties get enough education on any newly introduced platform to understand how it can change and benefit the organization—in this case the new solution was SG1 and Oracle Utilities platform. To foster a technically collaborative environment, with multiple vendors in a large-scale implementation, each vendor assigned a resource for regular architect meetings where problems could be raised and solved in an efficient manner. Creating communication plans to minimize silos that have a tendency to exist in multi-vendor environments is critical to the success of projects of this nature.” “The Red Clay project manager worked very closely with me as the business sponsor to ensure we kept the project on schedule and met the business objectives,” said Hock. “ Our project was complex. We used five separate vendors and numerous temporary resources to provide and implement software solutions. I was impressed with Red Clay’s project management expertise that was critical to the success of this complex project. I was also impressed with Red Clay’s technical expertise which was also critical to the success of this first-of-a kind application for the Oracle Utilities MDM.”

ABOUT AMEREN

St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation serves 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area through its Ameren Missouri and Ameren Illinois rate-regulated utility subsidiaries. Ameren Illinois provides electric delivery and transmission service as well as natural gas delivery service while Ameren Missouri provides vertically integrated electric service, with generating capacity of over 10,200 megawatts, and natural gas delivery service. For more information, visit www.ameren.com.

ABOUT RED CLAY

Founded in 2001, Red Clay Consulting is a leading systems integration and consulting firm in the Energy and Utilities Industry. As a certified Oracle Gold Partner with an Oracle Utilities MDM 2 and Oracle Utilities SGG 2 specialization, Red Clay implements enterprise solutions based on the Oracle Utilities framework. Red Clay is ambitiously led with integrity by industry experts who are proud to manage a team of dedicated, driven and enthusiastic employees. Visit www. redclay.com to learn more about our mission of doing what is right and fair for our clients, our employees and our company

Improving meter-to-cash processes is commonly used for justifying the investment in smart meters and meter data management (MDM) platforms at utilities. Because meter-to- cash (M2C) isAmerican Electric Power easy to remember, tied to a critical outcome via revenue, and well-suited for an acronym, this term has become a frequent catchphrase in the utility industry. In practice, streamlining the collection, verification, analysis and application of meter data reaches beyond bills and into every aspect of utility operations. Energy giant American Electric Power (AEP) proved M2C’s pervasiveness with their recent revamp of four AEP operating companies’ meter data infrastructure. AEP serves more than 5 million Americans across 11 states, and a 40,000-mile transmission network. Each day, they manage millions of data records tied to usage, billing, asset health and outage response. In 2014, nearly half of AEP’s holdings, represented by four companies, operated on legacy systems that required intrusive reconciliation processes to validate data quality for billing as well as market daily market settlement. Efficiency and precision are critical at any company, but is especially important in our industry as more data pervades energy systems. In this age of increasing data and interconnectivity, AEP enhanced their M2C operations by upgrading the software that controls it all: the meter data management system.

THE SOLUTION

Each of the companies undergoing the upgrade previously used Lodestar 1.6, a legacy meter data management solution operated by Oracle. Though functionally dynamic and highly- customizable in many respects, Lodestar lacked critical features inherent in newer systems like Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management. One of the primary needs was ensuring data quality when balancing daily consumption data for customers in preparation for market settlement and reconciliation. In addition, Lodestar calculations did not include critical elements, such as the ability to balance scalar and interval consumption on a daily basis and further display and estimate customer usage based on customer type and tariff. To meet consumers’ demands, AEP mandated that their revamped system draw on various streams of information to fill gaps and increase accuracy. Red Clay, AEP’s software integrator for this endeavor, deployed data migration tools to enhance the out-of-the-box functionality of Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management to achieve this goal. These tools leverage preconfigured transfer processes, data files and tests to enhance system operations. Using Red Clay’s accelerator SmartGridONE (SG1), Red Clay successfully converted data from AEP’s legacy MDM Lodestar 1.6 to Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management 2.1 to broaden the scope of determinants used to generate estimations.

This change led to the creation of a daily market settlement engine that drives more accurate data reconciliation each day for two of AEP’s Texas holdings. To date, these settlements have led to AEP’s highest data quality ever sent to the ERCOT settlement market. Beyond improving system accuracy and automation, AEP sought to leverage the power and value of a single system across multiple companies. Implementing a single system required balancing the compliance and performance measures of each individual entity to ensure continuous service and a smooth transition. To accomplish this, Red Clay worked closely with teams from each operating company to understand their operation, priorities, and overarching goals. Discussions resulted in the development of a master processing schedule to optimize system batch processing and operations. Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management 2.1 yielded higher quality data and more precise calculations, all while meeting or exceeding data processing service level agreement standards for each organization.

Beyond the improvement in data quality, this implementation offered AEP a consolidated and scalable enterprise platform to service existing and future AMI deployments, as well as enhanced outage management to prevent customer-facing issues. ABOUT AEP American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity and custom energy solutions to nearly 5.4 million customers in 11 states. AEP owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a more than 40,000-mile network that includes more 765-kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP also operates 224,000 miles of distribution lines. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning approximately 31,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also supplies 3,200 megawatts of renewable energy to customers. AEP’s utility units operate as AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). AEP’s headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.

By the Numbers

  • 18.5 million records converted
  • 1.5 million meters migrated to Oracle Utilities Meter Data Management
  • 2 time zones
  • 4 operating companies impacted which comprised nearly 1.9 million meters including:
    • 1.2m in Texas
    • 550k in Oklahoma
    • 130k in Ohio
    • 10k in Indiana and Michigan

ABOUT RED CLAY

Red Clay, a leading consultancy for utilities, delivers seamless integrations of leading software systems. Industry experience, technical expertise and an unyielding commitment to client success combine to deliver turnkey solutions that maximize value. As a Gold Level member of the Oracle Partner Network (OPN), Red Clay Consulting is the preferred choice for software integration and managed services among utilities. Their unparalleled experience, expertise and execution fuels project success. To learn more about Red Clay, visit: www.redclay.com.