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Utilities need to show return on smart grid investments, Accenture builds on Structure

Utilities need to show return on smart grid investments, Accenture builds on Structure

Posted by Jeremy CowanFebruary 8, 2015

‘Showing return on investment (ROI) and value from smart grid investments’ is the number one issue to focus on in 2015 for municipal and cooperative utilities in a recent US survey. So says a survey by North Carolina-based smart grid technology provider, Tantalus, in which 37% of the 50 municipal and cooperative utilities rated their top concerns. Addressing the ‘impacts of ageing infrastructure’ (17%) ranked second in the survey of more than 50 utility customers at the annual Tantalus Users Conference, reports Jeremy Cowan. The event brought together a record number of Tantalus customers and partners to receive specialised AMI application training and share best practices with utilities from across the US.

The survey findings indicated a continued strong focus on adopting value-add applications designed to leverage and justify smart grid infrastructure platforms while providing value to customers:

  • For the second year, Add-on Applications was the top utility investment priority for 2015, which is further evidence to support the trend of demonstrating ROI, says Tantalus. Implementing security enhancements doubled as an area of investment for 2015.
  • Load control again leads as the most popular application that utilities will implement this year.
  • For the first time, Data Analytics ties as the number one utility application to implement in 2015. This finding supports indications that utilities are becoming increasingly IT-  and information-driven as the quality, quantity, and accessibility of real-time energy data becomes more prevalent through AMI technologies.

“The opportunity associated with the evolving focus of municipal and cooperative utilities beyond basic meter reading towards more data and value-driven operations is exciting for Tantalus and the industry,” said Peter Londa (pictured), president & CEO of Tantalus. “As a smart grid technology provider exclusively focused on municipal and cooperative utilities, we similarly believe that the value of real-time data lies in the actionable results from the delivery of data. Our distributed computing capability at the edge of the network, which is embedded in our communications modules, empowers our utility partners to integrate value-driven applications that strengthen the connected grid and improve operating efficiency and reliability.”


The survey also asked respondents to rank the value of benefits gained from their Tantalus TUNet AMI technology. (Also see: Smart grid communications and hardware market to reach $3.2bn value annually by 2020, says Navigant.) The top five responses in descending order were: outage notification and restorals, power quality monitoring, reduction in truck rolls, automated billing, and improved customer service. Other key survey findings include:

  • High priority areas of investment cited by respondents include Demand Management and Distribution Automation.
  • Of the utilities that indicated they are planning to hire in 2015, 60% of those positions will be technical or IT-related.


Tantalus provides two-way, real-time data communications networks to monitor and control electric, gas and water utilities. TUNet®, the Tantalus Utility Network, is an end-to-end WAN/LAN/HAN communications system that operates with 220 MHz RF, 900 MHz, and IP-based networks including fibre, WiMAX and GPRS/cellular, either individually or in combination.


Accenture closes Structure acquisition to strengthen
its smart grid operations capabilities

Meanwhile, Accenture (ACN) has completed the acquisition of Structure, a provider of consulting, system integration and customised solutions and services to energy and utilities clients founded in 1998. The transaction expands and enhances Accenture’s deep experience and capabilities in smart grid solutions, especially grid operations, as well as commodity trading and risk management (CTRM). (See: Accenture expands smart grid operation and risk management services through new acquisition.)

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries.

“Our ability to provide comprehensive end-to-end solutions and services in the grid operations and commodities trading space to a wider variety of utilities and energy clients is significantly enhanced by this combination,” said Peggy Kostial, senior managing director for Accenture’s North America Resources operating group.

In the utilities industry, the combination adds Structure’s deep skills, including those in grid operations, with Accenture’s global strengths in information technology (IT) to support the integration of operational technologies (OT) with IT systems. Examples include the deployment of advanced distribution management systems and automation solutions, as well as improved outage management and grid analytics.

In commodities trading, the transaction is said to strengthen Accenture’s business capabilities with utilities, mid-stream pipeline and energy companies. It brings Structure’s end-to-end expertise in market operations and commodities trading to help clients optimise their assets and commercial portfolios in natural gas, electric power, chemicals and crude oil. Structure’s approximately 200 employees will operate within Accenture’s Resources operating group.

“Over the last few weeks, the reaction from our people, clients, and industry partners has been overwhelmingly positive with many parties excited about the strategic synergies of our businesses,” said Lelon Winstead, Structure managing partner. “Today, we turn our attention towards realising those strategic synergies by integrating our businesses to maximise the value for our clients and create growth opportunities for our people.”

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Sources include: Business Wire, Yahoo! Finance, Yankee Group

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Jeremy Cowan

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