GIS System Integration for Multiple Utility Business Processes: Exclusive Interview with Kjetil Nymoen of Hafslund Nett - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: Kjetil Nymoen
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Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Aug 27, 2019

Today’s utilities find the data that comes from GIS, or geographic information systems, to be more and more critical for optimizing business functions. The application of GIS into the utility sector spans many potential applications, from enhancing reliability through ease of maintenance, identifying opportunity for increased distributed energy resources, training purposes, and much more. Given the wide applicability of GIS technology and the data it generates, making sure GIS is efficiently and holistically integrated across different businesses is critical to proper implementation.

Kjetil Nymoen is a Solutions Architect working on accomplishing just that at Hafslund Nett. He will also be sharing his knowledge on this exciting and emerging topic at the upcoming GIS4SmartGrid 2019 conference from SmartGrid Forums. In advance of his presentation, entitled ‘GIS System Integration – connecting a number of new and legacy systems to provide geospatial data and context to multiple utility business processes,’ Kjetil was gracious enough to share insights into his work and this upcoming presentation with Energy Central:

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Matt Chester: To start off, can you provide some information about your background and how you first got involved in the intersection of GIS and utilities? Why is this an area that attracted you and what makes it so important?

Kjetil Nymoen: I have been working in the utility business since 1995. I started my career at a small electric utility here in Norway, where I worked as a power engineer. I was lucky to be a part of a project there where we went from paper maps to digital information. It was the early days of digital transformation with very simple desktop applications. But I was hooked on the use of IT solutions. It opened a new world for me, and I decided to move into the IT business.

In 2000, I started to work with ArcGIS in a private IT company called Geodata. They had signed a big contract with some electric utilities, and I remember hard work for a long, long time. Data migration, functional testing, development, a lot of discussion, trying and failing. But it was fun, and I did learn the power of GIS and location. It was learning by doing.

So, now I can look back and realize that I have been working with GIS for utilities for 19 years and have been part of the huge transformation from desktop to servers to web services to the cloud. It’s been a fun journey, and the journey for me now continues at the biggest electric utility here in Norway.


MC: Many people in the industry are talking about how the advent of new big data sources is a driver of change in utilities, but your talk is also going to touch upon how that data is more accessible than ever, on any device and anywhere. How does this ease of access to data affect what’s possible in the utility space? Does it also present some new challenges to overcome?

KN: Easy access to data is fundamental for decision-making and to get people to interact in a much better way. Earlier people in the office had to go through several systems to get the information they needed. Today, they just open one web application and they get what they need. The field crews now have all the data they need on the smartphone, and a lot of that data is updated in real-time. I do have a statement from one of the field crews, so you should join the conference to hear what he has to say!

Just the fact that people now can get access to data on any device and anywhere is a huge step for our business. Faster and more accurate decisions, saving money, and more happy customers. There are some challenges you must be aware of. IT security is one of them, and also remembering the people. New tools and apps do not always solve everything, but as long as you involve and talk to people and support them, you will get positive and creative feedback.

Data quality is also something to pay attention to. The users must trust the data, so we do have a huge focus on data quality.


MC: Another key point you’re going to talk about at the GIS4SmartGrid 2019 conference is the importance of location. Can you give a preview of what you mean by that and how utility leaders can and should embrace that idea?

KN: Everything happens somewhere, right?

By using the location, you can derive new information products and see patterns you did not even know where there. That is the actual power of GIS analytics. All of us need to be much better in using those capabilities from GIS. By running more analytics on our data and overlying that with other data, we will gain new insights. Insights that we can use to better plan and design, improve maintenance, improve outage handling, improve customer service. But you need the location to be able to do that.

I will show some examples in my presentation about what we are doing and what kind of questions we are now able to answer. We are not perfect, but we have started and will continue to explore the capabilities of GIS.


MC: If the goal is to be able to use data to predict what’s going to happen in the coming days, months, and years, what’s going to be the impact of utilities that are not fully embracing these data analytics and GIS integrations today?

KN: It’s not easy to answer that question, but I can share a few thoughts.

There will be more use of sensors that measure temperature, movement, light, water, humidity, proximity, etc. These are cheap sensors that you can place anywhere, and they are already available on the market. The data from these sensors is stored in big data shares and fed into machine learning routines that tell us when we need to perform maintenance or it’s time to replace an asset, or even prevent a failure.

When an outage occurs, the analytics are done automatically based on historical outage data, SCADA data, sensor data, weather data, lightning data, etc. The real-time data combined with historical data makes it possible for us to be very close to the self-healing grid. The data from the AMI meters help us to have a complete overview of the entire network, including the low voltage network. Fault location detection occurs by itself, and complete control of earth faults. Of course, the use of drones during a big outage situation with real-time image data processing and machine learning routines is also important. To be able to do all of this, you first need to run a lot of analytics on your data to be able to create learning models for machine learning. Understanding your data and the patterns is going to be crucial, so I think the utilities really need to hire data scientists as well.

I strongly believe that utilities need to embrace the data analytics and the possibilities with new technology. The technology and methods are available today, so we should turn data into advanced decision-making.


MC: As with many IT solutions that are emerging across various industries today, you stress the importance of open-standard interfaces for these utility solutions. Can you talk about why that’s so important?

KN: Data is important and cannot be locked into a single system with a complex data model. We need systems with open-standard interfaces so we can decide how and where to make use of these data. If the data are easily available to us, we can then, for example, develop our own function and make that data and functionality available for many people. That is often a much better approach than having the vendor develop a new tool in their system.

With standard interfaces, you can set up an integration very fast without a project that will take you thousands of hours and a lot of money.

We have very good experiences with new vendors that create new solutions with open-standard interfaces. It is a new world, and really it is the way it should be.

My talk at the conference will be about how we use our data-driven architecture to give people easy access to data from multiple systems. I will focus on our IT architecture where we have a new data-driven platform managed by a ‘DataHub’ running in the cloud. So, I encourage you to join the conference and then you will understand the importance of standard interfaces.


MC: To finish, you’ll be at the GIS4SmartGrid 2019 conference not only as a presenter but also as an attendee. What are you excited to learn more about while surrounded by utility experts in GIS?

KN: First of all, attending a conference like this is about listening and learning from others, and also to meet people and create new contacts. You will always get new ideas and get inspired to go home and implement them. The hard work begins when you are back home, and you start to sell that idea internally. I am really looking forward to this conference.


If you're interested in learning more about how utilities can integrate GIS across varying business processes, be sure to check out Kjetil Nymoen's presentation this topic at the GIS4SmartGrid conference this upcoming September in Berlin, Germany. You can learn more about the agenda and register for the conference here.


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