The average big electric utility is a sprawling network that is buzzing with energy but contains surprisingly little data about that energy. Managers at utilities can’t “see” very deep into the thousands of substations and relay units that make up the electrical grid. Some utilities still learn about a neighborhood electrical outage not because it shows up on any of their sophisticated monitoring equipment, but because customers call them on the phone and complain that the power’s out.
A smart grid means real-time monitoring everywhere. That in turn means fire hoses of new data that utilities are nowhere near ready to handle now. For one thing, many utilities have control systems that don’t communicate to each other internally. That has to change. Furthering complicating matters, all this has to be done piecemeal because you can’t just shutdown the grid for a week and upgrade the software.