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BC Hydro Powers up with Digitization

Here’s the latest Cisco case study on BC Hydro. Sure, I wrote about BC Hydro a while ago here: BC Hydro, Cisco and Itron – a Powerhouse in Canada.What’s new? Well, now I can give you some ‘Where are they now’ facts – it’s a real business success for BC Hydro, their customers, and for Cisco and our partners.

Companies like BC Hydro are in the lead when it comes to embracing digital business to deliver reliable, high quality services for customers and to enable remote automation and monitoring to keep the service levels high. As the main British Columbia electric distributor, BC Hydro now provides 1.9 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers with energy. The hydro utility has now transformed to a digital business with Cisco connected networking, security, and smart grid solutions.

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The power utilities industry is all about customer service, whilst maintaining safety and security within a strong regulatory environment. Sol Lancashire, senior telecom architect at BC Hydro, is quoted in the case study as stating “We needed a flexible, open architecture to support our evolving smart grid. Cisco provided an architecture, the necessary infrastructure, and ongoing support to bring the diverse elements together. The Connected Grid products are optimized for the electric utility industry and give us a reliable telecommunications foundation to be able to support increasingly challenging energy delivery requirements.”

BC Hydro Pic#1 compressedWell, enough of the Cisco selling (though where would we be without it?!). What about results? Well, one of the key benefits has been the ability to restore power faster in an outage. This actually improves safety for customers (imagine the dangers at nighttime od unexpected lights out). The important thing is that the system not only detects outages and enables faster response, but isolates the outage to a smaller geographic area – so less customers are affected.

There are cost savings too. Meters now automatically send hourly interval usage data twice a day (the old manual system meant the majority of meter data was sent once every two months!). Customers get better usage visibility, and they too can lower their bills by looking at their own consumption and making economies.

BC Hydro has used Cisco security solutions for years, where Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine) is used to secure the Wi-Fi in all offices, stations, remote substations, and line trucks in the field. The new integrated approach includes other parts of the infrastructure as Lancashire says:

“Now, using International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61850-based digital relays, Cisco Ethernet switches, and fibre optic cables we can achieve high-speed fault protection, allowing us to significantly improve the power quality and reliability to the residents of the City of Vancouver,” says Lancashire.

The transformation to a digital business is a journey. BC Hydro plans to enhance and expand its Cisco RF mesh network to accommodate additional distribution automation devices. Other services under consideration or being planned include automated demand response, smart street lighting, and insightful analytics. “We’re laying the foundation for a common, secure network infrastructure to enable grid automation applications that will improve the safety and reliability of the power system for our customers,” says Lancashire.

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BC Hydro, Cisco and Itron – a Powerhouse in Canada

With just under two million customers, BC Hydro is deploying the first standards based multi-services in production FAN network with IPv6 802.15.4/RPL mesh to manage the Automated Metering Infrastructure(AMI), Distribution Automation(DA) and other advanced gird applications.

The design is based on Cisco’s Connected Grid Solution utilizing Cisco’s Field Area Router (CGR) and standards based Smart Meter Field Area Network (FAN) technologies and Itron OpenWay® CENTRON® smart meter as well as Itron’s meter data management, collection engine and reporting software.

BC Hydro is fast moving to build an IPv6 network able of supporting 2 Million routable IPV6 addresses in a secure, resilient, and manageable way.

British Columbia for BC Hydro BlogBC Hydro has 41 Dam sites, 30 Hydro facilities and 9 Thermal units and, from a transmission perspective,  has 18,000 km of Transmission lines 260 substations, and 22,000 steel towers!

On top of that, BC Hydro has 56,000 km of Distribution lines  Approx. 900K poles, over 300K of transformers that serve 17 Non-integrated areas.

The area covered by BC Hydro is equal to the area of California, Oregon and Washington state combined. Impressed/? You will be…

OK, enough of the numbers. So what about the business? Well, the idea is to do three things, according to Fiona Taylor, director of BC Hydro’s smart metering program, who discussed  results  reported in an Itron Press Release:

“We are pleased with all the accomplishments to date and the benefits we are already seeing, including [1] streamlined operations, [2] improved system visibility, and [3] revenue recovery. We look forward to realizing the full benefits of the IPv6 network architecture in 2014.”

By way of history, under a mandate from the British Columbia government to implement AMI, BC Hydro awarded Itron and Cisco a $270 million contract for smart meters and networking, Gary Murphy, chief project officer for smart metering at BC Hydro, told Smart Grid Today in 2011 (SGT, 2011-Aug-10).

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That brings us  to a key part of the customer solution. Itron. Itron is a partner of Cisco, and together we have developed some of the most innovative metering solutions for energy customers.

Also, Itron and Cisco are helping to break down silos in the Energy industry infrastructure. There is real added-value in adopting a standards-based approach to smart metering and smart grid. You can read about it in the white paper here.
Itron’s partnership with Cisco goes back a way, and you can see how it manifests itself in the whitepaper, and the background is well covered in the historic  press announcement (click on the link to view).

A couple of the objectives of the partnership deliver direct value to our customers:

  • Deliver true multi-service, multi-application (applications from metering to grid to workforce) capabilities over a common network infrastructure with standardized and robust security that any utility can implement.
  • Optimize the total cost of ownership of these networks by spreading the cost over a greater number of grid applications and devices.

The way forward is clear. And foggy. That’s because Cisco is delivering its vision of Fog Computing to accelerate value from billions of connected devices – meters included! More about that next time when I talk about how Cisco IOx enables applications to run directly at the network edge to overcome rising operational costs and spark new innovations in the Internet of Things.

Until next time – keep the power on!



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