Redlands, California — November 09, 2009 — ESRI users met in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss how geospatial technology is helping them meet the challenges of an uncertain economy and increasing demands for alternative and traditional energy. ESRI's Electric & Gas User Group (EGUG) presenters offered technological geographic information system (GIS) approaches to smart grid operation, environmental management, and business efficiency models.
Anthony L. Wilson, vice president of distribution at Southern Company, one of America's largest gas and electric providers, addressed the conference. "GIS provides a way through the uncertain time we face," he said. "GIS is foundational at Southern Company. Our operation systems are well connected to GIS. The system also supports our objectives of safety, customer satisfaction, reliability, profitability, and talent development. Our customers' expectations for service are changing, and GIS is helping us meet those expectations."
In a video presentation, ESRI president Jack Dangermond talked about changes in the GIS arena. "The presence of GIS is changing the technological landscape. There is a stronger acknowledgment by energy companies worldwide that GIS is key to many of their activities. More companies are using GIS as a central technology for building infrastructure and are using geographic information to formulate science and plan projects."
ESRI technicians showcased ways GIS supports electric and gas business models. For example, a dashboard makes it easy to view many types of related data in one view and see alerts. In the case of storm management, the user's dashboard could include weather, accident information, media coverage, customer outage calls, and SCADA outage reports. Based on this information, the user could then deploy a storm planning model that would show risk levels by area that are related to the particular storm. Finally, the user could bring up a map to see, in real time, the proximity of field crews to outage and at-risk areas.
A data management demonstration showed ways to organize, manage, and disseminate information. Companies can use GIS to dig deep into their data and use it for multiple purposes. Technicians also presented various geoprocessing models, from assessing risk for storm preparation to devising vegetation management plans to planning a pole replacement project. In addition, they explained that customers are Internet savvy and use Web services on a daily basis. With GIS, utility providers can accommodate customer expectations by delivering hosted Web services that allow their customers to view power outages in their area and see what response efforts their service providers are taking.
EGUG president Raymond Brunner, GIS manager for the City of Safford, Arizona, also spoke at the Plenary Session. "GIS brings our organizations together to work with other entities and participate in organizational workflows," he said. "With it, we are meeting the challenges of personnel turnover and asset and work management processes. GIS supports power optimization strategies and integrates with our business management systems."
Participants at the EGUG conference, held October 12–14, 2009, represented 90 gas, electric, pipeline, and GIS industry companies. Descriptions of EGUG paper sessions presented by electric and gas professionals and ESRI business partners are online at www.esri.com/egug. The next EGUG conference will be in Detroit, Michigan, October 18–20, 2010.
Barbara Shields, ESRI
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