Allan Connolly, Group President, Hubbell Power Systems Inc
The inevitable and steady rise in energy consumption has forced utility companies to fulfill rising consumer expectations and have made them accept the need for technological innovation for energy demand. The utility industry has been focusing on satisfying customer demands for water, gas, and electricity in various traditional and proven ways for years. However, these energy distribution practices are now being challenged by a rapidly evolving technology landscape, privatization, and strict regulatory initiatives globally. The term smart utilities imply effective utilization of technology to control and monitor energy flow across an ecosystem. This includes producers, distributors, and consumers, all of who gained exponential jump due to an increased emphasis on sustainable energy solutions. Utility companies are using various smart technologies to ensure sustainable energy supply by minimizing losses, assuring high levels of quality, safety, and reliability across an ecosystem and meet customers’ demand for more flexibility, choice, and a better experience. Aclara, a provider of smart infrastructure solutions (SIS), offers solutions to more than 800 water, gas, and electric utilities around the world. Aclara’s SIS integrates software, hardware, and data technologies that provide actionable insights to make distribution systems more efficient, responsive, flexible, and reliable.
Smart infrastructure solutions - Mitigate risks
Gas utilities are currently dealing with aging and stressed distribution infrastructures, potential leaks, and increased regulatory scrutiny. To mitigate these challenges and help gas utilities predict and respond to risks across their distribution networks, and tackle increasing regulatory pressures, Aclara offers advanced metering infrastructure, monitoring, and analytics solutions. Aclara’s SIS assists gas utilities in managing their distribution networks with customer care and billing, methane detection, and pressure monitoring. By eliminating
estimated reads and providing customers with consistent billing, customer care and billing solutions smoothens revenue collection and reduces calls to customer service representatives.
Methane detection eliminates the risk of explosions and harmful emissions by detecting leakage while pressure monitoring helps in responding before the occurrence of any incidents with real-time insights into pipeline integrity.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a trillion gallons of water is wasted every year due to old pipes and infrastructure in U.S. and water utilities are struggling to solve this problem. Aclara offers a solution to this issue with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technologies that mitigate the impact of meter inaccuracy and leakage, unbilled unmetered consumption, and reclaim lost water revenue. With its data-driven approach, the company assists utilities by providing insights into resources with data analytics and enables utilities to improve systems, services, manage water distribution networks, and recover revenues. Aclara’s SIS helps utilities overcome challenges with pressure monitoring utilizing real-time data and prevent sewer overflows using sensing technology.
Since electric power grid is transforming, electric utilities are looking for solutions to increase visibility into their distribution networks. The increased demand and integration of distributed resources on their aging system forced utilities to hunt for the solutions to better manage their assets and fluctuations in voltage, current, and loads. Aclara’s SIS enables electric utilities to take advantage of smart meters, edge devices, and data to mitigate these challenges. Aclara’s solutions allow distributed generation of electricity by integrating electricity generated from windmills, solar arrays, independent power facilities, and microgrids. Aclara also offers solutions to control the load fluctuation due to distributed generation, increased demand, and aging infrastructure. The company allows utilities to identify and locate outage-causing faults and monitor load to respond quickly at the time of circuit overload or blackouts caused by aging infrastructure, improving reliability to save time and effort. Utilizing Aclara’s SIS, utilities can conserve energy by managing voltage levels on feeders, reduce loads, and enhance consumer engagement through energy conservation programs.
Utilities that provide gas, water, and electricity together serve their customers more economically by building integrated service and response systems, creating operational efficiencies. However, they have to maintain an integrated, smart, and responsive communication network to collect data from different dist service systems. Aclara’s solutions offer these utilities a unified approach to monitor and manage diverse distribution networks providing one software that eliminates issues with multiple head ends and diverse software platforms.
Integrated solutions for unique requirements
Aclara delivers an array of products and services such as smart meters, sensors and controls, advanced metering infrastructure, communication network, and software that enable utilities to predict and respond to conditions, leverage their distribution networks productively, and engage with their customers.
Aclara’s wide range of smart energy meter products fulfills basic and comprehensive requirements with multiple communication technologies, bringing accuracy and clarity into power usage across an electric utility’s distribution network. Combining the hardware, software, and service solutions, the company boosts the electric, gas, and water communications network such as power line, radio frequency, and cellular, building a solid backbone for SIS.
Aclara deploys and upgrades the AMI or metering network using a cost-effective and latest meter and sensor technology, communications network, and analytics software. To manage every phase of AMI deployment, Aclara’s smart grid solutions (SGS) field team integrates ProField enterprise planning, workforce, and asset management software. Aclara’s ProField suite of applications offers end-to-end visibility and control of metering and AMI initiatives by efficiently executing affordable smart grid initiatives in real-time. ProField creates a strong ERP application for meter deployments by automatically collecting project data across all data modules and enables tracking of the entire installation process from inventory management to safety management. It customizes the workflow to meet the utility’s requirements and eliminates errors by documenting the whole AMI deployment process to increase productivity, and reduces costs.
Redefining the Future
Allan Connolly, Group President of Hubbell Power Systems Inc., established Aclara as a stand-alone, privately-held company with strong financials and executing a strategic plan while serving as President of Aclara, leading to the acquisition by Hubbell Incorporated in February 2018. “Working under Hubbell Power Systems, Aclara’s radio frequency
laboratories’ (RFL) product line won Utilities Technology Council’s 2019 UTC IMPACT award for multi-service access & transport (MSAT) platform in hardware category, ” says Connolly.
He further added that Aclara partners with game-changing utilities and industry
leaders that are taking a different approach to solve common problems, exploring new ways to deliver energy and natural resources. “We look at these challenges from all sides and not just one-way solutions. We design, integrate, deploy and support the smart combination of communication networks and tools, smart meters, sensors, software and applications to fulfill unique customers’ requirements,” adds Connolly. Leveraging 45 years of experience and developing an array of SIS technologies, Aclara expertise in deploying and collaborating the right solutions and technology to manage distribution systems for electric, water, and gas networks.
From R&D to field support teams, people in Aclara continuously focus on innovating new solutions to meet future challenges by making the power grid smarter, delivering clear water, and encouraging consumers to conserve energy. Assisting customers at every step from planning to making decisions to implementation, the company supports and delivers insights and technologies to drive the future infrastructures and create new services and values. Navigating the road ahead, Aclara is offering solutions for visibility across their network, to fast-track deployment. The company wants to continue being a strategic partner for utilities, helping them make smart and timely decisions that fit their needs. From managing or upgrading aging infrastructures, deploying new smart and distributed energy programs, or gaining real-time situational awareness of network
that can reset consumers’ expectations, Aclara supports customers in their entire journey. “The versatility of Aclara’s SIS allows utilities to move beyond legacy systems with a more real-time, model-based approach to provide greater network visibility, manageability and actionable information for utilities and their customers,” concludes Connolly.