As the world adjusts to new working practices, what can utilities gain from implementing remotely-operated solutions within their infrastructure?
In the first of two articles on the subject, Hariprasad Beerappa, Principal Consultant at Enzen, shares his insights after successfully delivering this type of solution for a gas distribution network.
The utilities of today are under more pressure than ever to deliver quality, efficiency and sustainability of service, all with minimal disruption. Consumers and regulators are expecting more, and the traditional methods of operation in power, gas and water companies need to evolve rapidly to keep pace.
Take your conventional utility data centre, for example. Two or three times a year, this will need a physical upgrade in line with change projects and ever-advancing operating systems. This can mean a huge investment in operational and capital expenditure, plus associated downtime or disruption in service.
A first for the UK gas industry
Naturally, any utility seeking to operate more sustainably and efficiently will benefit from alternative, more innovative solutions. Enzen has delivered one to a UK gas distribution network looking to upgrade its control room. The outcome was certainly a first for the UK gas industry, and to the best of our knowledge, one of the first of its kind in the world.
When we started work, our objectives were to create a smart, reliable and robust control room operation that would be more secure and efficient and build-in enough flexibility to accommodate future energy demand and new intelligent digital technologies.
Our solution was to migrate the entire control room infrastructure and suite of applications to a public cloud platform. This means infrastructure resource upgrades can be implemented at the click of a button within minutes and securely performed from anywhere in the world, an excellent example of lean asset management.
A more resilient solution
The benefits of remote operation via the cloud has opened up new possibilities for the utility. For example, the company can monitor resources from anywhere, bring in new technology such as the Internet of Things and Machine Learning and benefit from a platform with security, resilience, stability, flexibility and scalability. Greater efficiency, capacity and responsiveness are all positive outcomes from such a solution.
Indeed, the migration ensured the customer was more resilient and better prepared to face unprecedented challenges like COVID-19. The utility was able to transition smoothly into a remote working scenario ahead of the Government’s lockdown, thanks to the solution we provided.
We were very aware that the industry was watching how this programme progressed closely. Its successful completion has inspired other utilities to migrate their infrastructure to the cloud – and by doing so contributed to a more sustainable and resilient energy network of the future.
In his next article, Hariprasad focuses on preserving data integrity in cloud-based utility solutions.