Managing energy assets
Kissimmee, Fla., Utility Authority (KUA) has converted its geographic information system (GIS) software to a platform that draws on a single geodatabase rather than several separate databases. The new software helps the utility communicate system changes to staff members more efficiently and respond more quickly to power outages.
KUA is Florida’s sixth largest community-owned utility, serving 61,000 electric, water and Internet customers in five Central Florida counties. The utility owns, operates and manages the municipal electric system established by Kissimmee more than a century ago.
KUA first began using GIS to manage its assets in the 1980s, and, since 1993, the utility had used software by Gentry Systems. Following that company’s acquisition by San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk in 2001, the utility learned that its software would not be supported. “We knew about this early because we had worked closely with [the companies] on developing a lot of their software and were beta sites for them and on the advisory board for many years,” says Ken Beville, GIS manager. “Once we got wind of it, we started looking.”
In early 2003, utility leaders decided to replace their GIS software with a suite of products, known as the ArcFM Solution, from Fort Collins, Colo.-based Miner & Miner. The software is based on the ArcInfo 8 platform from Redlands, Calif.-based ESRI and draws on a SQL Server database by Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft.
Before the utility could roll out all the new GIS applications, it needed to convert the data that was previously held in several separate Microsoft Access databases to the SQL Server database. The utility’s GIS staff decided to handle the conversion in-house. The six-person staff planned to spend six months converting data, but they actually finished in three. “Even though [our conversion] was extremely successful, I would not recommend doing it that way,” Beville says.
By July 2003, the utility had converted its data and had begun using ArcFM, an application that allows it to map assets — such as poles, wires and transformers — and trace connections. Over the next several months, the utility rolled out several more GIS applications, including software packages to manage underground conduit systems, to allow employees to view GIS data on the utility’s intranet and to allow staff to view GIS data in the field.
On Dec. 31, the utility launched the last piece of the GIS software suite, called Responder, which is an outage management system (OMS). That application is connected to the utility’s interactive voice response (IVR) system. When a resident calls to report an outage, the IVR transfers the customer information to the OMS, which displays the caller’s location on a map for dispatchers. The OMS can analyze calls and predict where the outage has occurred. “If we have several calls come in, and [the OMS] predicts it’s a fuse, [we] can dispatch crews to the location of the fuse and give them all the information about that fuse before they even get there,” Beville says. “It saves a great deal of time.”
Because all of the utility’s new GIS software pulls information from a single database, Beville no longer needs to spend time exporting data from different applications’ databases and importing it into others. “With the old applications, 80 percent of my day as an administrator of a GIS was spent cleaning data, exporting data and importing data in between all of these applications that I had,” Beville says. “[With the new software,] if an outage occurs, we can represent that outage information in any application. Also, if switching occurs and the GIS technician opens one switch and closes another switch, automatically every application in the organization is updated immediately. That is the ultimate goal of an enterprise solution.”