IT and OT architecture to support the Energy Transition

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The Energy Transition is very publicly underway driven by a host of technological advancements in energy generation and storage, government policy and changes in customer preferences.  This is leading to a rapid growth in adoption of Distribution Energy Resources (DER) and a paradigm shift in Energy.

In this environment, asset and customer information is fragmented across multiple siloed systems and largely invisible to grid operators. Consequently, many assets remain isolated from core system planning and operations, and DERs are particularly underutilised and not effectively integrated into the Grid.

In parallel to the paradigm shift in energy markets, the emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, edge computing, machine learning, and digital twin are becoming more mainstream and traditional IT departments need to think about accelerating the pace for adoption of the emerging technologies and integration with legacy systems to realise the full potential of DER.  Digital meters, smart sensors, and new IT and OT data integration platforms create new visibility into customers’ behaviour, real-time asset insights to improve predicting and forecasting capabilities, optimise performance and reduce downtime. Asset Owners need to reassess their tools and strategies and co-design the architectural blueprint with the technology teams.

Utilities are operating critical infrastructure and from an IT perspective it is important to balance the pace of change and speed of delivery with security, reliability, stability, and resilience. Therefore, it is critical that IT departments take a holistic approach to architecture considering the internal strategies and external factors like changing regulations, disruptive emerging technologies, customer preferences and innovation in energy technologies to future proof the investments.

We believe that utilities need to create a layered architecture to support innovation, modernisation, and integration with legacy environment. Flexibility, scalability, modularity, agility, interoperability, security and seamless integration of IT, OT and IoT are the critical features of a sound architectural blueprint. Digital user experience, process automation, cloud-native architectures, API-driven landscape and modern data management approaches for real time data ingestion, secure data access, real time AI/ML enabled advanced analytics and forecasting capabilities are the building blocks for digitisation.  In our view, the best approach to achieve a holistic future proof architectural blueprint is to:

  1. Map out the current and target state business & technical capabilities
  2. Analyse the application portfolio and assess the alignment with user base, desired service requirements, functionality, and target state capabilities
  3. Identify the process optimisation and automation opportunities
  4. Identify application consolidation, optimisation, rationalisation, and modernisation opportunities
  5. Analyse the enterprise portfolio to identify gaps, risks and interdependencies and opportunities to build out the target state
  6. Develop a target state blueprint
  7. Develop an optimal operating model and resource plan to support the target state capabilities.
  8. Develop a strategic plan to deliver technology services to support business strategy and meet evolving regulatory obligations and adoption of technology innovations

In conclusion, digital transformation is not the target. It is a journey of constant change and evolution therefore a well-thought-out decision-making framework with clear set of standards, principles, policies, and objectives will enable the business and technology teams to co-contribute and co-design the overall enterprise vision and architecture where data from the device in the field is integrated all the way up to the enterprise applications.  Converged IT and OT system architecture can eliminate inefficiencies and barriers to interoperability and accelerate innovation.