The Wire - October 2015

Version 22

    Welcome to The Wire

    An e-newsletter designed to keep you up-to-date on ArcFM™ solutions and GIS trends, issues, and ideas that are important to busy utility and telecom professionals.

    Quick links

    New: ArcFM Client Services space in exchangeGuest Contributor: GIS and the electric utility death spiral
    Industry Notes: Schneider Electric recognized by
    IDC Energy Insights
    Tips and Tricks: Show snap tips
    Webinar: Are you getting the most from your ArcFM investment?Upcoming Events
    In the news: What's new with ArcFM?


    In this issue...



    New: ArcFM Client Services space in exchange


    We are pleased to announce the addition of a new ArcFM Client Services space in exchange. Designed to help you make the most of your solutions, the space provides a dedicated platform for our Client Services experts to engage with you, our clients and partners, to share key insights and experiences, including:


    • Best practices for real world problem solving
    • Technical tips
    • Implementation insights


    You will also find these regular features:

    • GIS Services Latest - a blog offering information, resources, and updates on new developments, implementations, best practices, and more
    • Services Buzz - highlights of Schneider Electric GIS Services customer success stories, including measurable results


    Our mission in Client Services is quite simple -- we want to partner with every utility and communications company across the world so they can leverage the power of the ArcFM Solution. To accomplish this mission, we focus on the following key strategies:

    • Utilize industry proven project delivery methodology
    • Recruit, motivate and constantly educate our highly talented team members
    • Strategically and tactically leverage our vast network of experienced partners
    • Execute all work with a commitment to five key dimensions of customer service: expertise, responsiveness, accountability, quality, and empathy


    We designed the ArcFM Client Services area to bring you closer to our services, mission, strategy, delivery methodology, team members, expertise, experiences, successes, failures, and lessons learned. This is the place for interaction and engagement between our Client Services team members and you, our clients and partners.


    Take a moment to check it out, ask questions and engage with our experts.




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    Industry Notes: Schneider Electric recognized by IDC Energy Insights


    We're pleased to share that our ArcFM software was recently recognized as a "major player" in an IDC Energy Insights MarketScape Report. The report analyzed geographic information system (GIS) solutions that support a complete range of utility business processes and functions.


    The report, "IDC MarketScape: GIS Software for EMEA Utilities 2015 Vendor Assessment," put ArcFM in the major player category due to its "flexibility and industry-focused add-ons that build on Esri's platform and enable utilities to leverage geospatial data across the organization."


    Additionally, our "specialization in automation management" was listed as a strength, as well as the ability to "integrate with ArcFMResponder OMS, which now includes near real-time weather intelligence functionality."


    For the report, IDC Energy Insights assessed the entire ArcFM solution suite, including Designer for graphic work design, Fiber Manager for managing communications networks, Responder for outage management, and ArcFM Mobile for fieldwork.


    In the report, IDC Energy Insights discusses how advances in data management have brought new value to GIS stating, "utilities should renew their interest in GIS as a means to leverage geographic information for business execution rather than just asset design."


    "We are proud to have been categorized as a major player by IDC Energy Insights," said Doug Engerman, vice president for our geospatial business unit. "GIS is the cornerstone of asset tracking for many utilities across the world, and we continue to strive to help make operations safer, more efficient and more reliable."



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    Webinar: Are you getting the most from your ArcFM investment?


    Tuesday, November 10  |  11 a.m. MT


    Whether you're a new ArcFM solution user or have been one for years, changes to your business, customer needs and technology may mean that there is more that can be achieved with your GIS. That's why we've put together a special online seminar to make sure you have the latest on all the new ArcFM capabilities. You'll also hear firsthand from CPS Energy about their experience upgrading to the latest release of ArcFM and how it is benefiting their business.




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    GIS and the Electric Utility Death Spiral





    "The report of my death was highly exaggerated."


    It turns out Mark Twain never really said the quote like this. But that doesn't really matter. The quote retains its meaning. For a utility professional like myself, Twain's insight reminds me that though many are speculating on the impending demise of the electric utility, that death is highly exaggerated.


    The electric utility death spiral goes like this

    In the United States, we have a new trend. Customers are installing solar panels to beat the band. In most places, customers can sell excess electricity these panels generate to utilities — at the same price they buy electricity from these utilities. The controversial practice is called "net metering." The question people are asking is, "Is this fair?"


    At the same time net metering is rising, utilities are dealing with old infrastructure. As it gets older, they have to spend more money on fixing and replacing the old stuff. Plus, they have to supply power to customers whether the sun shines or not. This means the cost of delivering power continues to rise — while revenue goes down (since customers' electric needs have gotten lower). Because electric companies are regulated monopolies, they can't raise prices unless they go to the state public utility commission, who can approve a rate increase.


    Sure, the utilities can make a strong case. Revenue is down, and costs are up. Regulators guarantee a rate of return on the utilities' investments, so they are apt to grant these rate increases.


    The problem, however, is that the rate increase hurts the people who don't have solar power. So what do they do?


    What would you do?


    You'd install solar. Over time, the population of people with solar grows, and utility revenue shrinks further. Costs rise. You get the point.


    Behold the death spiral.


    Add to this all the onset of affordable battery power. Instead of people relying on the utility during times of low sunshine, they can install a battery along with their solar panels. Guess what? They disconnect from the grid entirely. The gas companies might even jump on the bandwagon and install natural gas generators to supplement batteries and solar. Who knows what's coming next? Perhaps people will install wind turbines, just for fun.


    A light on the future

    Will that really happen? No.


    Do you remember big, mainframe computers? They came along, and next came PCs. Everyone predicted the death of the central computer (just like centralized power generation). Although PCs became hugely popular, they also had limitations. As people placed more demand on them, the computers needed to be constantly upgraded. Otherwise, they ran out of memory, broke down, and left people stranded for computing power.


    The biggest change happened when people realized computers were information islands. The PCs had to talk to one another. They needed to connect. Thus, the Internet became the equivalent of the mainframe computer. Today, the notion of an independent PC is almost never an issue. The cloud has replaced much of the computing power of the PC. Now, the cloud is even more of a centralized system than the mainframes ever were.


    See the trend

    Here's the first trend: The computing industry started with localized, central systems. It moved to decentralized systems. Now, it's returning to global centralized systems — with the cloud, which lets users expand their computing power as demand changes their needs.


    To some extent, this centralize-decentralize cycle has created a hybrid. You can have local resources when a particular application requires it, but these are backed up by a nearly infinite supply of computing resources when peak demands require.


    The same trend is happening with the power industry. It has also created a hybrid: the microgrid.


    By definition, a microgrid is an electric supply and distribution system that can provide all the power it needs to a small facility, such as a house or college campus. It is neither independent from nor dependent on the grid. A microgrid is in effect a power system that stands alone when a situation requires it — perhaps during power failures or power curtailments — but will connect to the grid whenever doing so makes sense.


    Just as I continue working on my PC during power and Internet failures (but can't wait to connect back to my power supply and Wi-Fi), the distribution electric grid will evolve to a two-way power platform, where suppliers and demanders communicate and collaborate.


    It will be a hybrid, centralized at times and decentralized at others. The grid of tomorrow will be like the cloud of today — only for power. We will migrate to a market system, able to buy and sell power at the lowest price that benefits consumers.


    Completely splitting from the grid will never happen. That would be like never having Internet access. People could never install enough capacity in their houses to achieve total self-sufficiency, able to increase power those rare days they need a lot of it. For instance, let's say you host a big pool party complete with a power-hogging margarita machine and three blow-up jumping-jack houses for the kids. You could never run all that stuff at once from a self-contained in-house power supply. The other problem is reliability. Sure, a utility power failure doesn’t impact you. But what if your inverter dies? You might be without power for days, maybe even weeks while waiting for a new part or a service technician. Today, when the power fails you call the power company, day or night, and they get your lights back on.


    The future is the hybrid. You will have it both ways.


    In the new world, you could arrange to buy supplemental power delivered over the grid just when you need it. This is analogous to buying extra computing and storage capacity from the cloud. You would have your own microgrid for normal days and perhaps sell excess power via a contract to a local aggregator, and you would at times purchase extra juice from the aggregator for the party.


    The distribution utility will be the energy equivalent of the Internet — it will facilitate the energy market at a much lower level than happens today. Customers will pay for connection to the grid and its services, and less so for their energy uses.


    GIS and tomorrow's Smart Grid

    So what has this got to do with GIS? A lot. The grid of tomorrow will need to be much smarter. It will in effect be a grid of connected and disconnected microgrids, some producing, some not. There will be a need for more sensors, more intelligence, and a lot more monitoring.


    GIS will help monitor the health of the solar panels. It will be able to help predict new demands, where to site new charging stations, and how best to integrate microgrids together. It will help figure out shifting populations for better planning of energy sources. It will help utilities shift their business model. GIS will help operators and new participants in the grid market figure out where things stand: how the market is working, why it is not working when it goes down, and which actions to take.


    Rumors of the death of the utility are dead wrong. The grid is changing, dramatically. But as more sectors, like transportation, move to electric, we will actually see increases in electric usage and a decrease in the use of fossil fuels.


    GIS will be there to help. It will play a key role in helping utilities, solar providers, battery producers, gas companies, wind farms and who knows who else figure out how to manage this new world of energy.


    It's going to be great.




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    icon_tools_yellow_white_80x78.pngTips and Tricks: Show snap tips

    You can turn on this useful option while inside ArcMap. On the Editor toolbar, go to Editor > Snapping > Options and check on the option to Show snap tips. Click OK when finished.




    Once activated, when you choose a target and move your cursor into the map display, a pop-up will let you know what your cursor is snapping to. You can also see this information in the Status bar at the bottom left of your ArcMap interface. The default snap settings are determined by ArcFM Configuration.






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    Upcoming Events

    Esri Asia Pacific User Conference

    November 30-December 1, 2015

    Bangkok, Thailand


    Esri India User Conference

    December 2-4, 2015

    Kempinski Ambience Hotel Delhi

    New Delhi, India


    Link 2016

    March 1-3, 2016

    Loveland, Colorado

    Call for papers »


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    Please let us know how we can make this newsletter more helpful. Email your comments to Chris Friede.

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    The Wire • October 2015 • Schneider Electric