Cisco Blogs

Cisco Blog > Energy - Oil & Gas and Utilities

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.

New Picture

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.

Read More »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Bit Stew shows off Analytics for Utilities with MIx Director at Cisco Live

We caught up with Andrew Miller, Sr. Sales Engineer from Bit Stew Systems at Cisco Live this year. Bit Stew is a Cisco partner that focuses on the analytics space with a platform that they call ‘Software Defined Operations for the Industrial Internet’. Their solution works with Cisco IOx on a number of Cisco platforms. The demonstration in this video shows just a small part of what they do, but does showcase analytics at the edge (Fog Computing) in a practical way with, in this case, an electrical utility customer.

Bit Stew’s Mix Core platform automates data ingestion, applies machine intelligence to learn patterns in the data, allowing industrial companies to discover actionable insights that optimize operational performance. MIx Director™ (formerly Grid Director™) is powered by the MIx Core platform, and is the application that industrial enterprises rely on for a contextual and real-time view of their operations, assets and customers.

In the Video, Andrew talks about the “Fog Computing” aspects of the MIx Director solution. With this solution running in cisco Grid routers at the edge of the network, a lot of the filtering of data can be done locally, without back-hauling to the data center or elsewhere. So long as everything is ticking along nicely, there’s no need to burden central resources or comms networks with unnecessary traffic. But if something untoward should happen, then operators will get alerts and see in real time what’s happening. Service crews or emergency services can be dispatched and potential disasters minimized. Well, don’t let me steal too much of Andrews thunder. Watch the video to see what happens next!

You can find out more about Bit Stew and some of their key people by reading these other blogs:

There’s a great “point of View” document that talks about the business benefits of the partnership here: Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Modernizing the Grid: Utilities and Data Analytics

The electric utilities sector is facing some challenging times as it struggles with a regulatory model designed for an earlier era. As increased renewable integrations into the grid intensify, electric utilities will need to take steps to accommodate the variable output of distributed generation and develop new insights and technologies that will shape the future of the grid. In fact, my colleague Rick Geiger recently authored a blog with his thoughts on what the future of the grid looks like.

The electric utilities business model is being disrupted and the days of the regulated monopoly appears ripe for change. So, how exactly can electric utilities work to modernize the grid? The answer is by addressing current customer requirement trends taking place in the industry through the collection and analysis of pertinent data. These utility industry megatrends include:

  • Changing customer expectations resulting from the digitization of services allowing anytime, anywhere personalized services.
  • Rise of social networks and the ability to quickly form communities of interest and communicate instantaneously with a billion people globally via text, video and/or voice.
  • Pervasive connectivity and computing that is unlocking a sea of change in productivity gains for businesses, disrupting existing businesses and creating new opportunities for agile firms.
  • Expansion of energy markets for distributed energy resources are enabling greater adoption and increased transactions.
  • Financial innovation that is enabling a wide range of customers to amortize initial capital costs of DER to align with benefit cash flows and make a stronger value proposition.
  • Energy technology advancements for power system and distributed energy technologies are accelerating at exponential rates while also leveraging breakthroughs on business models and system performance.

These trends are disrupting utilities’ ability to effectively manage the grid as customers become more involved in the way energy consumption evolves. As we look at the integration of renewable services or renewable generation from wind, solar, biogas and others, the grid is now becoming a two-way system.  Take solar panel installations on rooftops. You now have customers generating electricity and sending it back into the grid – it’s not just coming from the generating plant anymore. In order to stabilize the grid, we need to collect data and be able to make decisions that impact the outcomes seen.

In order for utilities to successfully meet these customer requirements, they must create an intelligent energy network platform that is:

  • Observable – enabling full determination of grid state – deep situational awareness.
  • Intelligent – enabling ability to gain situational intelligence to support operational decisions.
  • Automated – ability to rapidly adapt to changing conditions with minimal human involvement.
  • Transactive – dynamically balancing diverse resources and distributed market participation.

If you consider blackouts that have happened in the past, having an automated grid with the ability to collect and react to data may have helped with those cascading power outages. That is the problem modern-day utilities are solving. Electric utilities are changing their mindset about using data analytics to meet customer requirements and in my opinion, data analytics will be one of the best ways of effectively managing the grid. Harvesting reams of data opens up new, great opportunities for both utilities and ratepayers, which in the end reduces the cost of managing the grid and gives utilities real-time capabilities to deal with issues that may impact grid performance. One of the market entrants in the utilities sector taking this approach is Bit Stew. Read More »

Tags: , , , ,

Event Recap: Cisco at the EEI Annual Convention

I had a great time recently at the EEI Annual Convention on June 7-10 in New Orleans, LA. EEI is the Edison Electric Institute, the industry association of the Investor Owned Utilities in the U.S. with international utility membership from all over the world. The Annual meeting is a unique event that includes the attendance and presentations by the CEOs of member utilities. The theme of this year’s conference was “Electricity Matters”, exploring the exciting changes happening all across the electric power industry.

The first day was full of excitement, with presentations from Ted Craver and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz shared his thoughts about the dramatically changing U.S. energy landscape, outlining the recommendations defined in the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), particularly relating to grid modernization, resiliency, and infrastructure investment.

EEI Chairman Ted Craver led a thought-provoking discussion with Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, who was joined by Tesla Motors Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder JB Straubel. The three leaders discussed electric transportation, energy storage, and the role of technology and innovation for utilities and their customers. Other sessions on the first day included:

  • Approaches to Grid Security and Resiliency – panel moderated by PPL Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Bill Spence, discussing specific actions and approaches the electric sector is taking to improve grid security and resiliency.
  • The Role of the Utility in the Evolving Distribution Grid – Company leaders, regulators, and consumer advocates highlighted the role of the utility in four areas: planning, design and operation, infrastructure enhancement and customer education and protection.
  • Complying With the EPA Clean Power Plan – moderated by Gerry Anderson, Chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, the conversation centered on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and highlighted how new and innovative technologies can quickly change a state’s strategy for complying with the new rules.

Read More »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cisco Live 2015 has a Secure Ops Solution Demonstration Area

Many of you know about the Cisco Secure Ops Solution that was announced in 2014, and that it has already been adopted by Shell to secure the company’s critical infrastructure, but may not have seen a demonstration or talked with a Cisco subject matter expert about it.

Cisco Live, San Diego, CA, USA

Cisco Live, San Diego, CA, USA

Well, here’s your chance. We have arranged for a booth in the industrial vertical area at the World of Solutions at Cisco Live in San Diego to show just that. We’re pleased to be accompanied by one of Cisco’s security partners to show new features and functionality that takes Secure Ops even deeper into the cybersecurity protection and surveillance arenas.

The Cybersecurity space is getting more and more alarming every day. As my colleague Peter Granger notes, we have gone from the quaint world of Sherlock Holmes…

Sherlock Holmes: I didn’t really ask, Dr. Franklyn, but what exactly do you do here?

Dr. Franklyn: Oh, Mr. Holmes, I’d love to tell you. But then of course, I’d have to kill you.

Sherlock Holmes: That would be tremendously ambitious of you.

…past the pseudo-high-tech world of James bond and closer to a more modern world reminiscent of Kiefer Sutherland’s character Jack Bauer in the TV series ’24’. Today’s Cyber attacks are not just disgruntled employees or simple mischief makers (although that’s bad enough), but can be carried out by powerful crime syndicates and hostile governments.

Now more and more attacks are becoming visible and reported (e.g. Stuxnet like ‘Havex’ malware strikes European SCADA Systems – June 2014) and whether they are a terrorist attack such as the data destruction attacks on Saudi Aramco and on Qatar’s RasGas gas company in 2012 or unintentional (the vast majority of reported cyber incidents are ‘accidental in nature’ as reported by the Repository of Industrial security incidents, 2011), billions of dollars are lost every year because of them. Night Dragon, Shamoon, Flame, and Duqu have joined Stuxnet in the past few years and more will come.

A study by Fox-IT reported that 60 percent of oil and gas companies do not have a cybersecurity incident response plan. In addition, only 11 percent are fully confident that they can address a cybersecurity breach appropriately. Twenty-three percent admitted that they are not actively monitoring their network for potential intrusions.

How can Cisco help your energy organization? You can find out more by visiting our website, and check out the Security for Industrial Networks Overview/White Paper (don’t worry, it’s less than 3 pages!).

Security continuum #1And, of course, you can also visit us Cisco Live: there you’ll see how the Cisco Secure Ops Solution is relevant to many industries and is helping tackle our customers’ security challenges. A combination of technology, software and services expertise, Secure Ops Solution can help you increase your security response levels significantly – before, during and after an attack, across the entire attack continuum.

Don’t forget our other presence there around the Collaborative Operations Solution, which my colleague Suresh Venkat talks about here: What does a Cisco Live Demonstration have to do with droughts, floods and fossil fuels?

We look forward to seeing you in the Process Manufacturing Secure Industrial Networks booth at the World of Solutions next week.

As always – comments are always appreciated and we respond to questions!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,