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CFC Podcast Stresses Need for Agile Smart Grid Technology Planning

Randy Sukow

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CFC Podcast Stresses Need for Agile Smart Grid Technology Planning

Smart grid and communications technology are advancing rapidly. The pace of new innovation is changing the way that cooperatives approach long-term planning. Greg Santoro, NRTC’s senior VP and Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer, addressed planning considerations during a recent CFC-hosted podcast.

“You used to be able to make decisions about technology and it would last 10 or 20 years. With the progression of technology and new features and functions driving new capabilities and frankly in many ways, a quicker payback on those technology investments than there has been in the past,” Santoro said. “The complexity is increasing. There’s more choices. There’s more vendors. There’s more systems that you have to consider.”

The podcast focused on a nine-year project to deploy advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), meter data management (MDM) and load management that is nearing completion at Dakota Electric Association in Minnesota.  “We started back in 2013 with our planning process by identifying our technology needs and we developed an overall vision for the co-op,” said Craig Turner, Dakota’s senior principal regulatory engineer. “That pointed us to the need to update our CIS [customer information system]. We needed to build a foundation to support the flow of data.”

The cooperative worked with their county government and G&T to plan fiber optic communications with all of their substations. “From that we moved to our requirements for the AMI/MDM system. The company-wide vision really led to the development of a very detailed set of outcomes,” Turner said.

“I can’t emphasize how important crowd functional teaming is to good strategic planning,” Santoro said. He pointed to the way that Dakota assembled senior staffers at the beginning of the project in order to determine the need for additional systems integration, such as CIS capabilities and a fiber backbone. “In the past the engineering manager would drive the engineering decision. They would bring other people in, but it wasn’t as comprehensive as it could have been. Now we see the value of bringing everybody in,” Santoro said.

The 22-minute podcast also reviews how Dakota conducted risk evaluation, collected feedback through membership surveys as well as several other project details. The presentation sometimes referred to information from the rural electric smart grid benchmarking report (PDF), which NRTC and CFC jointly released last year. The full recording is available on the CFC website.

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