Michael Bates with Intel and Phillip Carey are Talking About Utility Digital Transformation

In this week's Industrial Talk Podcast we're talking to Michael Bates, General Manager, Energy with Intel, Corporation and Phillip Carey, Energy Consulting Expert about “The Electric Utility Digital Transformation Journey”. Get the answers to your “Utility Digital Transformation” questions along with Michael and Phillip's unique insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!

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utility, phil, Intel Corporation, grid, people, power, talking, system, world, energy, companies, consumer, stranded assets, customers, relay, generation, happen, industrial, industry, Southern California Edison


Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professional dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovations and trends while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat,


grab your work boots,


and let's get All right.


Welcome to the industrial talk podcast absolute, again, honor that you have joined this podcast, this platform that celebrates industry heroes such as yourself, it is a no legacy thinking zone, do not even come to me and say I've got some legacy thinking. Because everybody within industry is bold, brave, daring, greatly innovative, solving problems, and changing lives and changing the world as we speak. Thank you very much for what you do. You're making my life better. And that's really very special. All right, we've got to on this particular podcast, we have a gentleman by the name of Michael Bates, General Manager, energy at Intel Corporation, mad skills. We have another gentleman by the name of Philip Carey, he's a consultant has his own consulting firm, had many, many years within Southern California Edison, and we're talking about the utility digital transformation. It's an important topic, and it must be discussed, let's get cracking. All right, we have a it's a bit long, because they have a lot to say, it's an important topic, a couple of things that you can do. One, you can listen to part of it, come back, listen to it again, because it's important. And two, or two or both, that doesn't really matter with me. You can go out to industrial talk.com, use the player, speed it up, boom, you're good to go. But these two individuals are absolutely exceptional, sees what has to take place within the utility space. And it is really for me being an industrial guy. And being a utility guy. I really geeked out on it, because it was exceptionally a great conversation. So I hope you enjoy it. All right, let's take care of some business real quick. I want you to get your calendar out. And this is the IoT solutions World Congress in conjunction with the industrial internet Consortium. This is an event taking place October 5 through the seventh 2021 in there talking about IoT AI, edge. You name it digital twin. I like this one quantum computing. How about that there is no stopping the future. It's absolutely spectacular. All right, put it down October 5 through the seventh, it's in beautiful downtown Barcelona, Spain, let's get our lives back in gear. That's what I want. I want I want ever this next normal to include travel. That's what I like. And boy, the people of Spain, this organization IoT solutions, World Congress organization, as well as the industrial internet consortium put on a fabulous, fabulous show. Been there a couple of times, broadcasted live from there, enjoyed every minute of it. Next one, put it on your calendar. This is in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, this is November 9 through the 11th. It's the manufacturing and technology show. And if you've never been to Cleveland, put that on your bucket list because it is a beautiful place with great people. And this event will not disappoint whatsoever. That's the manufacturing and technology show November 9, through the 11th. Put that on your calendar. A must attend event Oh, I will be broadcasting from there too. And connecting with all of the incredible individuals that are just innovative, that are bold, are brave. They're daring greatly. And you know what they don't do? They don't have any legacy thinking, boom, love it. Alright, let's get on with the interview. So this one of the the topics in one of the things that I was always sort of wrestling with, specifically to the utility space, is the fact that how does utility given all of this the renewable stuff that's taking place with all of the real innovative stuff that's being put onto the grid? How do they manage and how will they manage going forward, and it is a digital transformation, compensation and digital transformation solution. And these two individuals, Michael Bates, and Philip carry, bring the dog gun insights and wisdom. So enjoy the conversation. Welcome, and I appreciate you guys wanted to talk a little bit about the electric utility digital transformation journey, and it's a journey. Welcome, guys. How you guys doing?


Doing well? Thank you.




got it. You know, you got to do it. Nobody knows you. So you got to just say Hey, Mike, give us a little background on who you are because they haven't gotten out to your LinkedIn stat card right


now. Okay, well, I haven't seen it either. But I'm glad to know that it looks good. And thanks for letting me go first. You bet us and thanks for inviting me enjoying conversation today. Cool, have a little background with Phil so we can share some of our common experiences. But my role at Intel is to look for opportunities to apply our technology and convene our ecosystem of partners to address big industry challenges in our energy verticals. Our energy in our case includes oil and gas power utilities, the new energy service companies that are getting into the renewable energy services, for example, the EB charging area as well, as well as digital oilfield smart AG, and water. So we look across different areas of energy and where they impacted the grid is there


like that smart AG, I had an opportunity to, I can't remember it was in Oklahoma someplace. And the the innovation that's being applied to AG, it's impressive. I just think it's cool. Everything's cool.


Let's talk about it. If you want, there's a couple of interesting projects going on in here. We might have


to just sort of dovetail and just go off on a tangent, Phil. Thank you.


Yeah, so my my backgrounds a little different. I was formerly at Southern California Edison for 22 years, in it the entire time, but started out in IT operations. And then at one point, found myself in a architecture group, and then transferred into a group called it smart grid engineering, where we were an IT group that was embedded with the OT group in transmission and distribution, the advanced technologies group. That's where I learned a whole lot about the business. And while I was there, develop this common substation platform. And I retired at the end of 2019. And now I'm off on my own as a consultant. And I've done some work with Intel and with Dell Technologies. And here I am.


It's funny. I think the internet says when you retire, you become a consultant. I think so. There's nothing else you can do it. It says,


Why the internet and my wife keeps saying I thought you were tired? Well,


you don't want to get out of game now. Just kidding.


No, you're right. You're right on the money on that one there. Because this time is very, very exciting. Very interesting. And I don't have the answers. But people like you, Mike and Phil, are in the game. And you're you're talking about this. And so we're focusing in on utilities. And typically, utilities tend to be sort of legacy thinking, this is why we're here, this is the end and it hasn't really changed for a long time, whatever that long time. might give us a little sort of, no, no, no, I'm gonna take it to Phil, because he was with Southern California Edison, not to say that you're not that important or my, you'll get your guide, okay. It's just sort of give us a little sort of that utility thinking, not today, but in the past sort of that utility thought process.


So the, you know, the current utility networks were designed, you know, we're using 100 year old technology, essentially, it was designed to generate electricity, and to deliver it to customers. And the utilities job was to get that electricity in one direction from the generator to the customer, and to balance load with generation. And as long as load and generation stayed balance, and electricity was flowing through the system, everybody was happy.


It's true.


Such a simple explanation, but it's like when I come into a room and I flip that switch me consumer or me, manufacturer or me, whatever that power be, but better to be delivered at the right cycles, rival to all of the stuff it has to write. And and that's the way utilities have been developed. It's just that's how that's what it is. And rightly so. But what's changing Mike?


Well, one thing is changing is, you know, the model is changing. And, you know, to Phil's point that utilities, the past and still current were built around reliability, keep the lights on so the talent They acquired the training they gave the policy and regulation to support that model, it's all been ingrained for, like you said, since the really much the inception of electric delivery, one way flow of power from centralized generation coal plants, nuclear plants, then through step down to consumption at the far edge, that's been the model and the bill, then the technology has been in place to support that model of keep the lights on at all costs. And I think Phil might agreed he's much more into the technology side than I am, but it feels like a siloed stack of solutions have been built around this grid reliability model. And now, the grid, the delivery model is really turning upside down. It's not it's changing from that one might flow from Central generation to to a flow from hundreds and 1000s of millions of points of generation on the opposite side of the grid, the other side of the substation, so it wasn't built to take on that two way flow equipment, maintenance costs go up because equipment wasn't designed for it, there's lost opportunity cost, because you're not connecting these new loads in a way under the kind of common substation platform to fill required. So it's a major shift of focus from the the generation side, down to the consumer side, consumer own asset side. And now you're asking a company that's been built to keep the lights on to now become a customer focused company. Look, you know, if the opportunity in the future is around services, you got to remake and re engineer a company to make that pivot. And it's hard for some companies to make that pivot, especially in the utility space.


Yeah, and, and you know, an example of that. And it's not this, not the utility industry, but IBM used to be the biggest hardware manufacturer in the world. And today, there are software and services company, they hardly make any hardware. So this is where the utilities need to go. And they need to look at how their business model is changing. And accommodate that.


Yeah, if you don't mind, God, I was just gonna add to that, I think the other thing I've heard the other comparison, I've heard Phil, and I think all of us on the call around to remember the telecommunications restructuring where the companies like the southwest and Bill's of the world who built all that infrastructure to enable what we see today, were not the companies that really profited from it, it was Facebook, Google, Amazon, they use all that infrastructure that was built and created services around it. And the infrastructure providers haven't even caught up since then, I think that's one of the inflection points we're at today is who's going to own that piece going forward.


So in a sort of simplified in my head, is that utilities were built in a way where I generate power, I transmit that power, I stick it into a distribution substation, and I just keep on bringing it down, bringing it down to the consumer level today, and that's fine. That's right, I see that flow. But today is like, okay, we have some that flow that go that way, right. But then on the other side of that, that transformer or that bus is is also generation that's happening on that side. So what so now we're saying it's got to flow the other way, and it's got to flow into this magical system. And it's not supposed to suppose just happen. It's like everything just sort of lines up. But that's not the case. That's not the case at all. So So there's a couple of things that I see taking place. First off, and I think it was you, Mike? Yeah, it was probably you. The toothpaste is out of the tooth, the toothpaste is out of the tube, it's out. So so we're heading down this road, it's happening, whether we like it or not, it's happening. So as a utility, let's say I have my utility hat on, I've got to do something about it. What problems is this new sort of dynamic grid had a causing on my system, Phil.


So one of the large problems is load doesn't necessarily match the generation system specifically out on some of the feeder circuits. So to combat this utility, really needs the capability to be able to reconfigure the feeder circuits to better match the load. Another issue is in the past, if I had a fault on one of those distribution circuits, I could tell by measuring the power flow through the relay And when it got out of specification, I knew there was something wrong, the system knew there's something wrong. And that relay would send a trip signal to the to the circuit breaker. Well, now that I have generation on both sides of that relay, how do I detect the fault? point? Yeah. So that's where some of this digital controls come in, so that we can measure and, you know, know how to deal with two way flow of energy now.


So here's the funny and here's a, here's a story from my past. So when I was with Southern California Edison, I knew, you know, I'd go into that relay room, I have that smell, and distribution voltage, I can always see, I could always see the lights, right, the lights, they'll, they'll dim. And I'll say, okay, that's what they'll dim. Okay, that's too. And I know that the, the testing the relays physically test the line. So if it, if there's a there's an, an interruption, they'll Test, test, test, and then lockout three times that was like the, the policy at a time, right. And my dad, as a former lineman, when he would watch the lights. And as a kid, I'm going to hex you're probably right, and you'll see it one, and it'll count two, and then he has three. And then right off the bat, he get a call. But but that that's old time thinking that's that's old way now with like you just said, Phil, you've got generation on both sides. How does that that physical, a really know what's going on? Mike? What other problems are utilities dealing with? In this particular? Whatever we call it? I don't even know. Is there a term that we can call this particular world that we live in from utilities perspective?


The general term, I've heard his energy transition, but that that includes a lot of different things. But that's the term I'm just gonna run with that one.


Yeah. All right.


So other other problems that they face. And again, this some of this is not some of this is technology, although I would argue the technology exists to do the kind of things that Phil and I are talking about. It just needs, there needs to be investment in alignment, mostly through right policy and regulation that allows for the type of investments. And I think we're getting there. I think there's other other market drivers. So you asked the question before, Arianna asked it. You were saying that, that this was an evolution. And you and I talked about this before I was at a neighbor's a distributech dinner or something? And someone asked the question, this was two years ago, or maybe three years ago. It's like everybody in the room that thinks that this is an evolution, raise your hand. And literally three quarters or more of the room raised their hand, no, this is an evolution. And it was mostly utilities, the understanding that this was an evolving process, it was under their control or to kind of evolve it as they drive it. But I think what's changed now and then the rest of the 10% maybe said revolution, I think if you did the same poll today, it might be the opposite. Because I think there's market drivers outside of the utilities control that really is forcing the change. One is a focus around sustainability, and impacts of climate change. That cannot be ignored by the utility. So mandates by states companies company's, again, in areas where particularly in areas where there's been energy resiliency issues like in Texas, around the storm in California around the wildflower wild fires, where companies are looking for alternative sources to roll their own energy systems. So as more and more of those, if that pain point keeps bringing more and more companies and customers to roll their own energy, that's less, that's more of a problem on the other side of the grid that Phil's talking about. So corporate sustainability driving a lot. And I also think we're gonna start hearing more how financial markets are looking at carbon based. So companies with high carbon footprint carbon based assets, which will move companies again away from that one way flow of centralized power, which is dirtier, in general, to more decentralized power on the edge again, exasperating the problem. And then finally, EBS. You know, you One could argue we're at the inflection point now. But if you follow this industry at all the companies that have declared the end of combustion engines, the policy regular the support, from, you know, Europe and US around the administration, so think those market drivers and again, I started going so long here, but those market drivers are really pushing them in ways that are forcing them into this This type of a platform that Phil's talking about to be able to enable more services and and become a player in this new opportunity. So


great. No, you know what, it's a little bit more than that, because it's the regulators as well. Yeah, you look at California's remote, renewable portfolio standard, going to 100% renewables, I think it's by 2050. And Washington state where I am at now, just in the last week or so, passed a carbon tax resolution in the house. So, you know, those kinds of standards are coming here. They're coming everywhere. So,


okay, so


let me just you brought up a lot of good points there. Mike one, I think you're absolutely right. 11 illusion versus revolution. And I think we're at that point, I think we're at that revolution, I just think that there's too many things taking place in the market today. I think the drivers of sustainability, climate change, market, ie V's and the regulator, those are challenging conversations to have one of the things that and I'll throw this out real quick, because it just popped into my head. If If carbon based assets are going to be, you know, viewed poorly, how do you even how do you even structure a financial value proposition around a traditional generate? I think it's just going to by virtue of that, nobody's going to be able to wrap it with any type of capital. That'd be tough going forward, because you still have embedded assets that are still having some sort of rate of return


and still am being amortized. Right. Yeah. So


utilities don't like stranded assets. Yeah.


Geez, Phil, I haven't heard that one in a long time stranded assets. I forgot about that one. Okay, listeners, I have a utility background and stranded assets was a word that was battered stranded assets get shut the front door. Okay. So, so now we've we've painted the picture. And there's a lot of dynamics, it's very fluid out there. And before industrial talk, we've had number of conversations that evolve revolve around the term industry for Dotto, we've talked about the edge, the cloud, this that everything around with that. But what component that was really missing was, was that utility, how does the utility fit? I get it in the manufacturing world? I get it. I get it in the oil and gas, I see it I see what they can do. Utilities because of their short of the way they look and who what they are. This is a this is a difficult question. Now with that said, what has to change? Phil? What has to change in their mindset? Because they're not going away? Without being song without being dragged? But it's happening? What has to change?


Yeah. And you know what? The technology of this is the easy part. Right? Michael mentioned, some of that technology is already around, it's usable. New technology is coming on board all the time. The problem is more with people than it is with technology. A lot of utilities don't even realize yet that they need this digital transformation. It hasn't quite hit them yet. I've been in conversations with many utilities. And you know, some of them are working on it. Some of them say now, we're not. We're not even thinking of that yet. But they need to be. There's a couple of forces at play here. First of all, if I'm a utility operator, you know, I have to meet my safety and safety numbers. Otherwise, my regulators will be really upset with me and could have some financial penalties. So if I operated my grid, and it was stable last week, and this is the way I did it, that's the way I want to keep doing it because it's a known commodity. And, you know, nobody can fault me for doing something new that didn't quite work out.


It's true. Um,


another issue is what I'm hearing now called the silver tsunami.


Yeah, I've heard that too. And it's not just is it utility? What they they've been talking about the silver tsunami for years and years and years. You know what they do? They retire, they retire, you fill and then they bring you in as a consultant.


That's what they do.


That's the


first time I've heard it.


Yeah. So I guess what I'm saying there is that many of the workers on the OT side of the house. So the transmission and distribution in the case of utilities are people that have been at that utility for 20 3040 years. And change is a hard thing. Yeah, you try to move one of these guys cheese, and they're gonna let you know that they want their cheese where it is. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Um, so the people, part of this is the hard part, getting people to accept the new technology, and also learn how to use it.


So it's silver tsunami, is that massive retirement that people like Phil, were referring to, they've been there for 30 4020 whatever years, right? And then all of a sudden, hey, I can retire. And then all that knowledge, all that intellect event, utility stuff just goes right out the door, and onto the lake. Where the end and and what do you do as a utility? And I remember I was working with another utility in Arizona, and and they were having the same thing and these planners, so you can you can walk into the planning department, and you can say, Yep, retirement, retirement, retirement retirement. And, and they know where all of the switches are, they know where all of the funny, funky things that are out on their system that they got to be aware of, and they just let the crew know, right out, whatever all of the stuff that's out there, gone, gone. And, to this day, we still don't have a real solution of saying, okay, we'll let you go. But we've got to go inside your head and pull out that information. And maybe until can get to that probe and just stick it on an endo system


now neuro link, thinking about it. So interesting stuff out there. A quick side story on that. I live in Texas, I think I told you that. And we had this winter storm that shut everything down. And I remember, I'm not going to mention the city, but one of the city water systems went down because it couldn't get the emergency backup system back up. Because the owner's manual was lost and all the knowledge about how to turn it on and connect it. So it sat there for two days until someone anyway it's kind of a symptom of the way you're just talking about it. So somebody just raised up their hand.


Hey, Scott, remember how to do it. So Scott raises his hand, he goes, Hey, can you turn on this water? Certainly can but


bring him back as a consultant. Last year,


that's right.


I have a number in mind. And it's on my napkin right here. And I'll sled across the table. And you let me know. But it's it's the truth. It is such and that whole Texas thing. That whole Texas and and for some of the listeners out there, they had a real winter storm in Texas. Now Texas is a unique system all to its own. It's called ERCOT. Right? Did I get that? Right? And so it's sort of this little unique utility Island in this all other, you know, utility type of grid. And they were they were they were challenged.


So you really highlighted the problem statement that we're talking about. The biggest, biggest feedback on during that time was there were areas in the archived grid where the downtown areas were totally lit up buildings were running full blast, even though no one could get to that building. Everyone was at home, while you know, nearby neighborhoods were having rolling blackouts, or in some cases, you know, days long blackouts. And the response was, well, we couldn't turn those switches off because they're on circuits where critical facilities are but that is not true. That gets to Phil's point. That technology exists today to do scalpel like precision, like control of those loads to turn those places that are in demand that aren't needed to areas that are without it again, it does. I think it takes a willingness. And I think a different approach to policy as well. And also willingness to invest to put that technology in place to do the things like that. Again, it's just it's not a, it just doesn't feel like rocket science to me. Yeah. But


here's, here's the thing that I have a customer and I don't want it in my backyard. Sure. I'm all about sustainability. But I'm all about having that nice, you know, turn on that light whip into my computer, have that nice clean power, just sort of making sure that things don't, you know, fry. So is this new, brave new world? Something that is really consumer centric, or is it something that it's going to cause me Yanks


either one comfort film.


I don't know that it's so much consumer centric, you know, back in my SC days. You know, we did the AMI, the automated metering infrastructure project, and we put Smart Meters out everywhere. And we made, you know, 15 minute meter reads and hourly reads available to the customers. And guess what? Most of them didn't care. They wanted their bill at the end of the month, they wanted the power to be on when they went and flip the light switch. But most of them really didn't care to go and look and see what their energy usage was at three o'clock in the morning on Wednesday. So I'm not sure that it's so much consumer driven, as it is sustainability and regulator driven.


That's interesting. You got it. Yeah, I was like,


Yeah, I would. I mean, I would counter that, I think there is an opportunity. And again, I think utilities have a great place to be the provider of these services, to engage customers. In a way I call it almost the democratization of energy. So that that power produced end or not consumed, in partnership with utility allows the consumer or some people call these prosumers producers and consumers of energy to participate in a market in the same way other load nodes can participate in a market. And I think that will facilitate more, or one, it's going to facilitate resiliency into the grid, because the grid is if we can optimize and orchestrate those many, many different loads. But I know it's yet to be proven. And I agree with Phil on the energy management data. I didn't think that was very sticky, either. And some of the projects I've seen, but I do think if there is a way to, to make it really easy for consumers to participate in an energy exchange, you'll drive higher adoption of these technologies.


has to be super easy,


breezy. And I still like it the most part, the average consumer wants their energy clean, green and cheap.


Which is right would be difficult, right? Yeah. It's like, got it clean, green and cheap. But the Something's got to give in that particular. So we've we've, we've created this reality the utility grid is there's a lot of mechanics going on out there. There's a lot of embedded assets, there's a lot of just old stuff out there, too. It's like, there's old stuff out there. And and some of its buried and some of its in these, you know, the relay sheds, and there's all these assets out there. How do we then begin to transition? Taking that reality taking the resistance of utilities to a certain extent, some are a little bit more willing than others in nacionales? It's a it's definitely a cavalcade of feelings. Where do we start? Does the technology exist to be able to transition to this night? This this whatever this digital age that we want to go to? Phil?


For the most part, yes, some of the advanced stuff, not yet. But we're really close to it. And like I said before, I think the technology is the easy part. So yeah, here's a little anecdote from me. You know, back when I started working in the smart grid engineering group, we were working on a on a large project. And my job was to assist the OT guys, in doing some of the computer control. I was the infrastructure guy. And I saw the way that some of these things were were happening. And being an it being a data center architect for as long as I was. You know, we had been doing things for years and years and years that were pretty reliable. And I went to one of the engineers, and I said, why are you doing it this way? We can. I mean, there's this system, and we can, you know, make these changes, and it will make your life a whole lot easier. And he didn't want to hear it. That's not the way we do it. So pretty.


Pretty common. Unfortunately,


I had a unique capability in that I had essentially my own lab there. And I had access to their labs as well. And I decided that, you know, I've tried to explain how I think this technology can work. They're not getting it. So I need to build it and show them. This is how it works. This is what it can do. So I did that in the lab and showed them and over time and it did take time I started getting questions about the technology. Well can it do this? Can't do that. What happens if we try this? Come on Phil, that that's,


that's a, that's a long tail type of solution. I've just got to say There we go. Okay, I'll show you. I'll create it. And then and then when you do create it, it's like, well, I'm interested in this little point here when you got this whole solution, right? And it's like, Hey, you got a kid. It's like, man,


but it was good because they thought of things that I didn't think of. Okay, right, because I was an IT guy. Right? So they would come to me, Well, can I can? Can it do XYZ? I'm like, Yeah, I think I can make it do that. So that led me to more innovation, innovation. And, and frankly, that technology, the common substation platform, basically a compute system virtualized that's built on industrial hardware that can sit out in a substation and operate, that allows the engineers to think about ways to do things that they could not do in the past. And it you know, it frees up, you know, out of the box thinking, and I hate that term out of the box, but I'll go ahead and use


it back back to those cliches, right? You just got to roll with it, because I don't know, I don't know of any other, it's just got to roll with it. Go ahead, Mike.


I was just gonna say it also unlocks innovation and in giving the utility, the ability to securely federate that data out to the developer world to look for opportunities to provide new services to customers, because there's data there, once you consolidate under the platform that Phil was just talking about, unlocks all kinds of key, some that utility is going to see right away and, and develop on their own, but many others, if they can figure out a way to federate it out. Many others will come from the from, from the from the app development world,


I gotta interrupt real quick a federated out, what do you mean by that?


So I mean, so federated, like in channels, so data sent autonomously for certain purposes and for specific up for specific applications. federated out, so in a secure way. So that, and again, I'm getting an error, or I'm touching errors I'm not that comfortable with. Okay, I


just didn't understand. It sounds good.


Oh, it's sharing the data in a way to to certain audiences that I think that value, and it's really secure exchange, does


that feel? Yeah, cuz if you look at it today, meter data is over here. And voltage measurement data is over here. And outage data is over here. And in most cases, that data never meets. But if you could combine that data into something useful, and then run some analytics against it, a good example is that most utilities inventory of assets is dismal at best.


And they're done that absolutely understand exactly what you're saying. I know that was there.


Yeah. And I think, for the most part, if you look at the field, utility does not really know what transformer My house is connected to. Yeah, they may, but they may not. They know it's one of these in this area, because the houses in this area. So there was a program that I saw, where the utility was able to take the voltage measurement data from the smart meters and run analytics against it, and determine which group of houses were connected to the same transformer. That's just a small example of when.


Yeah, and that's good for, that's good for customers, right? That's good. If I'm out in the field, and I got a power outage, right? And if I had that data, I would know that that Transformers feeding this neighborhood or this group of houses. And it allows me to think a little bit different. I can switch over here, do this, like it changes my look at the grid. If I'm out in the field and say, switch there, do this. Oh, that's, that's okay. We got it.


That's fine. For the most part, smart meter data is transforming the way that repairs are handled. Right? Because the old way is, first of all, the utility didn't really know that there was an outage until somebody called and said My power's out. And then when that somebody called and said the power's out. They would send a patrolman out to go and follow the lines and see if they can find where the problem is. Yeah, we're now you get outage reports from smart meters if your utility has smart meters, and they can pretty much pinpoint where the trouble is.


Yeah. I like that one. One other interesting project that's related. I've been part of is an idea to deploy, I'll call it autonomous mobile batteries. So batteries charged up and outside of the community in areas where solar can be. So this would be in an area. This has been particularly in in a very dense city environment where you can't put a lot of solar. And so if you would put the solar farms be on the outskirts of town, and mobile batteries would be there charging and discharging out into the network where the power is needed. I mean, it would be large size batteries, it could even be smaller size, where they're dual purpose could be even transportation. So picking people so it's a mobile battery first and then. But that type of technology that Phil's talking about, would be able to map out that autonomously move those energy resources around in a way that makes it look like baseload, which is what we're trying to replace. You don't until you make it look like baseload and act like baseload. Yeah, be hard to get to those mandates.


But that's, that's part of the problem, though, with the way that people think about change, right? Lots of utilities have automation, automation to where a operator pushes a button, and XYZ happens. You start talking about autonomous operation that scares the heck out of people. Because right now, just about every operation that happens on the grid is initiated by a human, human in the loop. So you know, the outage management system, the energy management system, it comes up with a solution, and then waits for the operator to say, execute and go.


Yeah, it is still down to that switch. Yeah. You're spot on now. And it's Yeah, but but okay. I'm bullish on the future. I'm bullish on the ability for smart people to deal or to address these opportunities, these challenges within, and I believe, I believe, from a consumer perspective, either we will be unaware, which is good. That's not aware. My path. Okay, I'll give you an analogy. So this is what happened. It's those micro interruptions that when I was alignment, would drive customers crazy, like a blip. And the reason for that normally, before an analog clock, no big deal, don't they don't care. It's still three o'clock. But when we came to the digital clocks, and you have that little interruption, then everything in the house or blink clock, high voltage power outage, and and that's when everybody said, Well, I don't like this, what's going on with my power? So if we can make it to the point where people are, they don't see it. Right, then I think we're good. But but I think we can answer these questions. Mike, where do you see it sort of going? I mean, what do you put on your future hat? Let's, let's say what if dream? What do you think it's going?


Pay? Well?


Yeah, so first of all, it starts with something you asked earlier, which is what do we need to do? And then I think one of these things? Well, the domino, despite the market drivers we talked about, I still think there's a lack of education to consumer level on some of these challenges. So I think I'd say one of the big things we need to invest more on is consumer education. And when I say consumer, I'm talking about every type of consumer, not just residential, multifamily, but also corporations and commercial industrial on, on what this smarter grid to use a term that's over us can deliver in terms of benefits. past that, I think the future will look like a lot of what the lot of what the content delivery world looks like today, the Netflix streaming world where when they first started delivering content, they recognized it, you know, coming from a central server was not going to not cut the deal. I think now as we expand in the ways we've talked about, I think a tiered compute network is going to be what the future looks like where the right amount of compute sits at the right part of the transaction. And there's a platform layer, like what Phil's talking about. I think that orchestrates that. Who wins that role. I think it's still up for grabs. I think the utilities are still in the lead position, in my view, because one, the position they have today, is still pretty sticky through policy and regulation. I also think their brand is still valuable in this area around the new services that create, but also recognize the new market entrants that are coming into this space. There's super ambitious, so companies like shell and some of the big oil and gas companies gas and oil. Yeah, so that's so Who wins that platform play, I think is who the future winners are that. But I do think it's a big platform play that orchestrates this, this new energy system we're about to fill. What do


you think the future looks like?


The future is definitely digital. Gone are the days where the grid is stable because of inertia. Meaning that Yeah, most generation is done by a big spinning mass. And that mass wants to keep rolling on when something happens. We're going all inverter base now with wind and solar, which really needs some fast controls, to stabilize the voltage and, you know, keep things up. I think utilities, a lot of them have realized that they need to get there. Some are just beginning the journey. Some are still saying that's not gonna happen. But




Okay, go right ahead and think that, yeah, so um, it's, you know, it's coming. And we need to educate everybody. The operator,


yeah. But here's the funny thing. And being in the, in the education, there's one, there's always going to be that percentage, and it's a high percentage, I really don't care. I just, I'm not going to listen, I don't care. I've got to dig this ditch out here. And I'm going to be doing that. But what's interesting, if we truly desire, a sustainable, nimble, you know, a system, the digital solution is the only way that we're going to get there. The physical solution that we have today does not allow for any of that, really, it sort of here, yeah, we'll let you have this little area here, whatever. But to truly transform and create something that is sustainable. It's a digital, it's a digital innovation type of conversation. You won't get there. And I guarantee you, they'll lose that battle.


And furthermore, Scott, it's a digital control at the edge. Yeah.


Oh, there you go.


Some some of these operations that are going to have to happen quickly. Yeah, there's not enough time to send those digital signals back to a central location, have it processed, and then a command sent out to do something. It's interesting.


Yeah, there's a Functional Safety component to that, too, that you mentioned, Phil, when powers come in the other direction. And there's an outage, you got to know if you're a lineman, what this what this, so the system has to automatically adjust for the safety components of this new system as well, immediately,


well, and then there's another big one is when you start decentralizing the system, and run these systems over networks, you need to pay a lot, a lot of attention to cybersecurity. That's,


that's a whole nother conversation you're spot on on that one.


It is and, and you can, in my opinion, triple the amount of compute power that you need to get this work done, when you lay out lay over the cybersecurity components on top of and so the, you know, the computers that they use today, these families, pretty gutless computers that can get the job done today. They're not going to get the job done when you lay cyber security over the top of it. Yeah. So


it's doable? are we are we you know, I mean, I'm talking to to the best in the business. Is it doable? Are we gonna get there? Whatever their looks like?


I think we are.


Yeah, I think a lot of it's being done. There's demonstrations of this. Again, it's not at scale yet. But yeah, I totally agree with Phil. It's not a technology problem to solve. Technology exist, to assemble the platform to deliver the services that we just described. It's your it's the people for sure. It's also the momentum behind the incumbent legacy system. There's so much investment in it all the way up and down. That it's hard. It's like moving a tuber aircraft carrier with a tugboat. It's just really hard to move it I think that's fucking about that


now, but it's gonna happen. It is and we're gonna have to wrap this conversation up. We've been going for about 45 minutes however, Mike, how does somebody get ahold of you?


Michael dot e dot Bates at Intel coms best.


Excellent. Phil.


Phil at Carey consulting. services.com is your last


no you I like your last name is it? Do you know the guy Hey, here's my resume. You two were excellent. This is this is just scratching the surface and I, and I can see additional conversations taking place as a result of this conversation. Because I mean, we haven't even talked about the regulatory component. We haven't talked about any other. I don't even have the answers. And and I like the fact that it does, it just gets down to people. And then once people make, make that decision, saying, Yeah, it's gonna happen, then things do happen. But you're right. Technologies technology. Just is,


yeah, you know, and and You're so right. When we were working on some of this new technology, we went out to one of the locations where the engineering groups were gentlemen, from the networking group, and myself, we went out to discuss IP addressing schemas with one of the substation engineers. And first of all, we started out with him, not trusting us, because we were from it. But by the end of the conversation, by the end of the conversation, he was ready to throw us out of his office physically. But a year later, he was one of our champions. Yeah. When he finally realized that this was coming, and that there was no way he was stopping it.


is a cool,


jump on board, baby are jumping the pool, the water's fine. It's all nice and cool and refreshing. I'm gonna have to do it. Alright. Thank you very much. Okay, listeners, thank you very much for joining the electric utility digital transformation journey. It's a mouthful, but it is what's taking place today. Oh, I forgot to ask you. It's global. we're not the only ones that have to deal with all of this is global maybe. And he says some extent or another, but it's a global challenge that I believe that technology can solve, but it gets up it goes right back to the people. All right. Thank you guys.


Have a good one.


You're listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.


All right. Big old shout out to Michael Bates, as well as Philip Carey. Both are just top notch professionals in the world of digital transformation for utilities. They're solving big problems. look them up, get out there. You'll have all the information out on industrial talk.com. Again, I want you to make sure that you put this on your calendar is the IoT solution, wrote Congress, as well as with industrial internet Consortium. great people, great organization, great event, that's October 5, through the seventh and beautiful Barcelona and the next one that we want to make sure that you put on your calendar is the manufacturing and technology show. And that is in Cleveland, Ohio, November 9 through the 11th 2021 put the Cleveland trip on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed for great food, great people call for you. Alright, people be bright, daring greatly. That's what industry is all about. Hang out with more bold, brave, Daring Greatly people and he will change the world no legacy thinking here. Ask the question. Why not? What if Enjoy your day.

About the author, Scott

I am Scott MacKenzie, husband, father, and passionate industry educator. From humble beginnings as a lathing contractor and certified journeyman/lineman to an Undergraduate and Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I have applied every aspect of my education and training to lead and influence. I believe in serving and adding value wherever I am called.

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