by Brad Howarth

CLP Group powers up with in-memory computing

Jan 20, 2011
Business IntelligenceERP Systems

The utilities sector has been quick to adopt the real-time vision, particularly those organisations that have made an early move to smart grid deployments. The pan-Asian energy company, CLP Group, has adopted real-time technology across various components of its business.

Australian-born CIO, Joe Locandro, says the organisation has long used real-time monitoring — or what it calls condition-based monitoring — for its power plants and infrastructure. Thousands of sensors measure variables such as vibration, heat and voltage consistency, and feed them into OSIsoft’s PI System enterprise infrastructure management software.

Locandro says that with this condition-based monitoring, if something starts vibrating outside of a tolerance level, or a heat-pump or a gearbox starts getting hotter than the normal level, the systems sends out alerts.

“And the beauty of that is that you actually anticipate problems before they occur,” Locandro says. “You are able to reduce the outage time of an asset, which costs millions of dollars when you have to put a power-plant out on a forced outage.

“In Hong Kong we need 99.998 per cent reliability, because there are thousands of people who can be caught in a lift at any given time. A voltage dip can cause a lot of grief to the fire services department and everybody else.” Real-time thinking has also flowed through to other areas of the business, and is now a part of CLP Group’s SAP-based customer service systems, with the company having evolved from batch processing of customer requests to real time. “What we have is real-time multichannel capability,” Locandro says. “So if a customer is placing a request to move in or out of an apartment or have a meter read or receive a copy of a bill, whether they do that through the internet, or through IVR [interactive voice response], or a customer centre, it’s all in real time.

“If they then ring up, it has already gone straight through to the back-end system and the call centre operator knows exactly what they have just done online.”

Read more about in-memory computing in CIO’s special report.

Real-time energy trading

Real-time information management is also used for an energy trading systems that CLP Group operates in Australia through a subsidiary.

“The Australian electricity bidding system is all in real time, working on five minute increments,” Locandro says. “That is a very competitive market.”

Another destination for real-time technology is CLP Group’s emergency planning, where it uses Microsoft’s BizTalk and SharePoint to create geo-spatial mash-ups of inputs from the Hong Kong Observatory. This information, including real-time data on the location of lightning strikes, is fed into its own emergency response systems to plan for events such as typhoons. The mash-up consists of a map of Hong Kong with lightning strikes and rain, overlaid with where emergency services and emergency generators are located.

“We are already anticipating where we are going to put our customer recovery crews and our mobile transformers, so if the power goes out on any section of cable or building we can restore it very quickly,” Locandro says. “All that of that is happening in real time, dynamically, as we are getting prepared for the big hit.”

If there is an outage, an application from GE called Power On provides real-time supply point outage management, so the company knows before a customer rings the call centre how many customers are affected by a supply outage in any geographic area.

Real-time technology is also being used for CLP Group’s smart metering projects.

“Instead of having one data point a month, you could have 48 each day, multiplied by 30 for each month,” Locandro says.

“What we are seeing is an explosion of data growth, where large commercial industrial customers and later residential customers will be transmitting consumption data back to the utilities for some type of billing.”