September 2019

The power industry has taken rapid strides in deploying information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems. In the past few years, transmission and distribution (T&D) companies have witnessed increased deployment of solutions such as smart metering, mobile applications, supervisory control and data acquisition systems, remote monitoring, enterprise resource planning and sensors.

Decentralised generation, a rapid influx of renewables, the proliferation of intelligent devices and the launch of electric vehicles are driving utilities to look at new ways to engage with its customers. Traditional T&D networks are evolving towards smarter grids, while greater choice in energy supply and use is expected to create new marketplaces.

The internet of things, big data and cloud are other major technology trends that are set to change the power sector landscape. The industry is also moving towards greater automation and digitalisation. Large volumes of data are being generated that need to be stored, processed and analysed. New digital tools such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being explored as utilities look to transition to the digital paradigm. This has led to the convergence of IT and OT, which have otherwise had an isolated usage history. The accelerating convergence between IT and OT calls for enhanced efficiency and productivity of systems. Hence, the methodologies and conventions used in OT must enable easy communication with IT.

That said, the growing deployment of IT and OT solutions is creating its own challenges as well as generating new needs. The majority of the technologies and applications currently deployed are operating in silos. The absence of data integration and functional interoperability continue to remain a major roadblock for IT implementation in the sector. Clearly, the convergence of OT and IT systems is an area that needs attention and holds immense potential for the power industry.

This issue of Smart Utilities discusses the IT and OT initiatives being taken by power utilities. Membrane and thermal technologies for seawater desalination have also been showcased. In addition, the issue discusses the smart metering and cybersecurity solutions being adopted by CGD utilities in India, and highlights the new technologies being deployed under the Namami Gange Mission.