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During her keynote address at the inaugural first Soft Grid Conference sponsored by Greentech Media, PG&E’s chief information officer Karen Austin told attendees, “Big data is a big deal.”

According to PG&E, smart meters generate more than 100 billion reads every year, which translates to three terabytes of interval meter data are added to the utility’s system every month. As more features are added, that number will continue to increase. PG&E has deployed approximately nine million smart meters in its service area.

Austin noted, “These data sources are no longer simple Excel files on your laptop. We really need your help. As we develop better tools to analyze and model and correlate the related data, we’re going to have unprecedented insight into how the grid is operating.”

The Soft Grid Conference is a two-day event and attendees included representatives from utilities, business partners, and smart grid professionals, to discuss the challenges of collecting huge amounts of data from smart grid hardware and the best ways to analyze it.

GTM Research analyst David Leeds stated that global data will double every two years and warned that the utility industry has not responded as quickly as it could or should have on how to handle the deluge of information.

Despite the challenges, Austin stressed the benefits of smart meters, calling the technology “an incredibly complex data-drive ecosystem” that enhances billing, tariffs, and pricing plans. The utility also uses the smart meter data to identify outages by replacing less advanced monitoring systems and to replace transformers before they break down.

Austin also announced that a new app is being designed that will calculate the power charge and money saved for charging electric vehicles at home. The app is expected to be available by the end of the year.

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