Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > Energy - Oil & Gas and Utilities

2015 Strategic Directions: Smart Utility Report

Founded in 1915, Black & Veatch is a leading global engineering, consulting and construction company, specializing in Energy, Water, Telecommunications, Federal, and Management Consulting. Black & Veatch’s annual Strategic Directions Report identifies top of mind issues based on a compilation of data and analysis from an industry-wide survey. The complete report is available from the Black & Veatch website.

“The annual Strategic Directions report series captures Black & Veatch’s global engineering and thought leadership expertise across key elements of the critical human infrastructure market.… This report represents the evolution of Black & Veatch’s inaugural Strategic Directions: Utility Automation & Integration report, with an expanded focus on automation and integration and utilities’ efforts to harness data to make operations and service delivery more efficient.

Black & Veatch 2015

The major sections of the report address:

  • Utility Telecommunications
  • Utility Automation
  • Data Analytics
  • Smart Communities
  • Perspectives

The report notes that utilities and communities, with the proliferation of smart devices, automation and the use of analytics are transforming development and delivery of key infrastructure services to become more responsive, efficient and resilient.

Especially relevant to Cisco’s engagement with the utility industry and communities around the world is Black & Veatch’s observation that as legacy equipment is replaced or upgraded, IP-based technology is creating new opportunities. Connected devices on utility telecommunications infrastructure is now widely recognized as “…an essential element of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Advanced metering Infrastructure (AMI) has often been thought of as synonymous with “Smart Grid”, but the expectations of real-time pricing or even time-of-use (TOU) rates and demand side management are far from the top of the list of top areas enabled by increased data management and analytics. The top three listed in the report are:

Asset Management (67%)

Capital Investment (45%)

Customer Service/Engagement (27%)

More than 63% of electric utilities report plans to replace, upgrade or build communications infrastructure in the next 5 years, with IP leading the way as the network protocol standard including SCADA systems.

“Some utilities are completely embracing a converged mentality and running everything over a shared infrastructure, while others are moving more cautiously by keeping protective relaying and other mission-critical applications separate from the converged network.

The report notes that some utilities are more focused on the cost of maintaining and replacing outdated equipment and are unconvinced that smart grid technologies and automation are critical, but concludes, “Staying on the sidelines carries risk.”

Budget concerns dominate the obstacles to new technology implementation, and convincing stakeholders is key to addressing cost and perception issues.

The report concludes that the adaptive planning enabled by IP communications and advanced analytics allow leaders to effectively address core management functions of Strategic Options Assessment, Asset management and Operational Planning.

“For organizations that provide essential services, this represents the greatest transformation in utility operations in decades. For the smart city, it will facilitate the transformation to becoming a better place to live and a more friendly and desirable place to do business for generations to come.”

Black & Veatch and Cisco partner to create architectures for electricity, natural gas, solar and wind customers that provide secure and optimized network integration for smart grid environments. If you’d like to know more about our work together, contact me by commenting on this blog.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Cisco helps Norway Utility Modernize Power Grid

BKKYou may not have heard about BKK AS. They are actually the second largest power grid owner in Norway with over 180,000 customers. Like many power and energy companies, some of their equipment has been around a long time. It works, but it’s getting old and it’s time to move on to something more cost effective. That’s where Cisco comes in.

I remember starting out my career in IT years ago, when IBM was selling the ‘System370 range’ as it was called. You’ll remember that in those days “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”. As a young sales person, I found the whole IT thing fascinating. I remember that in those days the customer communications were more measured. We had typing pools, we had face-to-face meetings, and the whole selling process took time. The business customers were upgrading their systems, and the newer kit had a great business case. Maintenance on the old installation was more, over several years, than the cost of new equipment. If you were to do nothing, your competitors would steal a march on you and you’d lose customers as your costs would begin to erode your business.

Well the same is true these days. In the Utility business there is a lot of older (though still reliable, in some cases) equipment. However, some of the older time-division multiplexing (TDM) networks are reaching the end of their useful lives. So it was with BKK AS. Maintenance was becoming onerous. But it’s not just about IT costs anymore. It’s about the missed opportunity of not doing anything. New grid applications are requiring any-to-any communications flows and also pushing for IT and operations technology (OT) convergence.

BKK Fiber AS CEOBKK, therefore, decided to build one reliable IP/Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network to ultimately securely connect all systems and grid devices. Like many commercial business customers, BKK operates a separate IP network that supports its commercial broadband services. Having had a positive experience using Cisco® technology for the commercial IP network, BKK chose Cisco for the new utility network as well. That’s IT/OT Convergence! Rick Geiger talks about it in his series of blogs stating with: Energy Networking Convergence Part 1 – The Journey From Serial to IP.

The new network needed to support a variety of grid applications, including very critical protection systems for the high-voltage grid. In addition, BKK is using teleprotection systems (both distance protection as well as current differential protection), which require the communications network to support extremely low latency (< 10 ms), deterministic behavior as well as very high availability. So the network needed to be deterministic – a common need for process control networks.

“Cisco offered the hardware and software features, as well as the reliability, that we needed to put our packet-based utility network into production,” says Svein Kåre Grønås, managing director/CEO, BKK Fiber AS. “It’s also reassuring that Cisco understands where the utility industry is heading, and is committed to connected grid services.”

So what are the results? Well here’s something taken straight out of the newly published case study:

Moving to a next-generation, packet-based utility network will save BKK significant operational costs for the utility network due to the ability to use cost-effective, standardized IP networking gear and avoid maintaining two separate networks at substations.

“Building and operating a high–bandwidth, packet-based network has given us a lot more flexibility. In addition, we can leverage the same processes and skill sets that we use to operate our Cisco commercial broadband network,” says Grønås.

With the new IP-based utility network, BKK no longer needs to reserve bandwidth for TDM communications, and now has more bandwidth available because it can be dynamically allocated. As a result, BKK can now offer the same network resources at substations that are available at corporate office locations. Workers can securely access needed documentation and other network resources at substations and power plants, instead of printing documents beforehand or calling colleagues at the office to gather information as they did in the past.

“This represents a major improvement in workforce enablement, productivity, and maintenance efficiency,” says Grønås.

In addition, this sets up BKK for success for the future. The new IP backbone will alllow BKK to provide new IP-based services and new capabilities in managing the power grid, such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and distribution automation. In the future, BKK can assign IP addresses to sensors and relays to develop smart grid technologies and provide greater visibility into its electrical
grid network.

“The utility industry is changing fast as smart grids become reality and more devices become part of the Internet of Things,” says Grønås. “With our Cisco-based IP utility network, we’re ready to reap the benefits of this new paradigm.”

You can read the whole case study which outlines the Cisco products and services here: Norway Utility Modernizes Power Grid.

Whilst I’m now proud to work at Cisco, some things never change – the emphasis on solving business issues of enabling business opportunities are key – it’s not just about cost savings. With Cisco heading towards being the leading IT company in the world, I’m sure we’ll see even more of this kind of customer success in the future.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Cisco at ENTELEC – Heads up on what you’ll see

Entelec 2014


Entelec info 2014Look out for Cisco at the upcoming presence at ENTELEC 2014. We’ll have both Exhibition space with demonstrations and a speaking slot.

ENTELEC is the Energy Telecommunications and Electrical Association focusing on communications and control technologies used in Oil & Gas and Electric Utility companies.

The ENTELEC 2014 Conference & Expo runs from May 20 – to May 22, 2014, and this spring conference is being held in the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas, one of the US major Oil and Gas centers.

Here’s advance warning of the Cisco presentation and booth.

Thursday, May 22, 2014, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.:

Collaboration in O&G Operations: A Study into E&P Operational Behavior

Cisco, Room 332B

And Exhibition details:

Cisco Systems, Inc.  Stand 231

Duarte 1 2-to-1-Ratio-smallCollaboration in Oil and Gas Operations is far more than just people using video and communications tools to talk to each other. With the advent of the Internet of Everything (IoE) that involves People, Process, Data and Things, operations staff at all levels of the organization expect to be able to collaborate with experts, supervisors, field workers and third parties using real time data feeds from videos and sensors, and have visibility to M2M communications, as well as to advanced modelling and analytical  tools, whilst collaborating! Cisco is already well known for its field virtual expert enabling collaboration technologies (more info here: Cisco Field Expert Collaboration for Oil and Gas At-A-Glance PDF – 1.44 MB). With that you can get immediate, face-to-face access to experts with on-demand video and communications tools. Now we’re taking it one step further… Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ready for the Next Phase Of The Smart Grid?

Connected GridOne of the greatest changes taking place today in the energy industry is the increased need for information from every aspect of the grid. Utilities need detailed data to meet regulatory requirements and to understand the grid’s condition on a granular level. They need to understand the grid’s condition from moment to moment – helping to cost-effectively balance load and assure reliability.

The opportunities are huge: for example, at CES Cisco CEO John Chambers announced an update to the Internet of Everything (IoE) Value Index estimating that in addition to the $14.4 trillion of value at stake globally over the next decade for private sector through IoE, there is an additional $4.6T in in value at stake for the public sector over the next decade.  The connected grid is a component of this, and it has a lot of potential.

To help realize the opportunities in a connected grid, Cisco has a Unified Field Area Network (FAN) Architecture and Distribution Automation solutions that can extend the utility communications network out to the field and substation device. They help to enable a new level of secure manageability and control on a single integrated architecture.  To learn more about these, register for and join:

Distribution Automation: The Next Phase of the Smart Grid Network

In this webinar you will learn how Cisco is helping Utilities design and deploy an end-to-end communication infrastructure that creates greater value.  Technology experts will be on hand to answer your questions on Cisco FAN Architecture, distribution automation, security and incident response, as well as the future of utilities and IoT!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Global Standard for Narrowband Power Line Communications

Steep increase in global demand for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Electric Vehicle charging, and Intelligent Street Lighting has spurred interest to implement communications for these Neighborhood Area Network (NAN) applications over currently installed assets.  Narrow Band Power Line Communication  (NB-PLC) addresses this need by providing a communication solution which operates over existing utility distribution networks.

IEEE 1901.2 Narrowband PLC: Final Steps to the Finish Line


Driving to the goal of a global NB-PLC standard, Cisco is vigorously engaged in the development of   IEEE 1901.2 NarrowBand PLC.  IEEE 1901.2 adopts the latest generation PLC techniques and  provides full adaptation to the latest IETF enabling technologies for IPv6 based NANs (6LoWPAN, RPL, MPL, etc.). IEEE 1901.2 is further aligned with other important Smart Utility Network technologies such as IEEE 802.15.4g/e.  Multi service IP based NANs are thus a reality, able to seamlessly support a mixture of PHY/MAC technologies appropriate for specific deployments

The IEEE 1901.2 standard is in its final stages of development, with publishing of the finished document expected by the end of 2013.

HomePlug Netricity for Conformance and Interoperability Certification


With the imminent arrival of the 1901.2 standard comes the need for a certification program to insure product conformance to the specification and interoperability between multiple vendor’s product offerings.  The HomePlug Powerline Alliance is rising to this challenge.  HomePlug’s Netricity program, with the full support of Cisco, is moving smartly ahead with development of a conformance and interoperability certification program for IEEE 1901.2 based devices.  Expect certification testing to begin 2014.

Cisco salutes the commitment and expertise of the entire 1901.2 and Netricity development teams. A global standard for interoperable NB-PLC will soon be a reality!

Tags: , , , , ,