Under the hood of OG&E's successful smart grid deployment

Full article courtesy of SmartGrid News

Expert NASCAR fans know the truth. Although the drivers get the publicity, much of the success depends on the car -- more specifically, what's under the hood.

The same with a smart grid installation. Sure, it's important to have a strong project lead. But much of the success depends on the tools, technologies and techniques "under the hood."

That's why I was so pleased to get a chance to learn what is powering OG&E's smart grid project, widely regarded as one of North America's very best. We've recruited OG&E Expert Solution Architect Joel Webb to participate in a webinar titled "Success secrets of OG&E's smart grid deployment." (Click the link to reserve a spot. Free to SGN readers while space remains.)

In preparation for the webcast, I talked with people familiar with OG&E's "Positive Energy Smart Grid Program." Below I've distilled several of the key learnings. (We'll go into more detail in the webinar while also giving you a chance to ask questions.)

OG&E background

Headquartered in Oklahoma City, OG&E is a regulated electric utility company that serves over 750,000 customers in Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Its Positive Energy Smart Grid Program, funded in part by $130 million in stimulus dollars, has four main components:

Advanced metering infrastructure

Distribution automation

A range of in-home technologies

Dynamic pricing programs

OG&E was not content just to slap up a few smart meters and call it a day. The deployment's ambitious goals included:

  • Provide "digital-grade" power
  • Optimize efficiency and asset utilization
  • Improve resilience against attack or disaster
  • Empower new services: Build a platform for delivering new products, services and markets

Oh, and one other thing -- they were charged with completing what should have been a five-year journey in just three years instead.

Lessons learned

My initial research uncovered many great ideas. Here are three highlights:

Best-of-breed development process. You may be wondering how OG&E is hoping to complete a five-year project in just three years. One answer is that it is running a number of projects in parallel. Another is the use of the Solution Delivery Lifecycle methodology, which provides:

  • A centralized repository for deliverables
  • Automated workflows
  • Standards, processes and templates

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"If we were going to do five years of work in three, we knew we would need a methodical approach," explains OG&E's Joel Webb. "Especially since there were so many people on the project, both OG&E people and contractors. We needed a good solid way to manage."

Integrated operations center. OG&E's integrated operations center monitors all network, system and operational resources. Built around IBM's Tivoli Netcool, it provides situational awareness (through visualization), drill-down capabilities, and incident management. It monitors everything from smart meters to network devices to datacenter servers and more. As I talk to utilities around the country, this is often one of the missing pieces -- the lack of a "manager of managers."

OG&E wisely addressed the challenge, resulting in end-to-end visibility and control. "We saw the sheer number of new devices that were coming into play and spitting out information and needing constant observation," says Joel Webb. "There was no way we could do it using our old, siloed methodology."