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Swedish Energy Company Digitizes Distribution Information

In Gävle, Sweden, the distribution networks for electricity, heating, and fiber optics are all managed by the municipal energy company, Gävle Energi, using GIS. This company also supplies electricity to Gävle's 90,000 inhabitants.

The municipality, located 150 kilometers north of the Swedish capital of Stockholm, wanted to coordinate information from its various distribution networks. During the 1980s, an ambitious project measured and collected coordinates for all cables and pipes in the urban area. This project was instrumental to Gävle's later successes with GIS.

Between 1989 and 1991, GIS was used to manage all measurement data and create simple maps. However, the system was unsuitable for complex distribution grids. Consequently, Gävle Energi created its own GIS system in 1992. This system, called GISAM, was supplied by SOS Programteknik AB, later Meldis AB, a business partner of Esri and was used to digitize all distribution information. Meldis AB is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) retailer packaging its own solutions that are powered by ArcGIS.

Discarding Paper Maps

"We discussed how long the conversion would take. The advantage was all cables and pipes had already been measured, but we did not know how many connections and objects there were in total. We expected this to take three years," said Håkan Sälg, manager of documentation for technical infrastructure and GIS at Gävle Energi.

GISAM was perfect for digitizing maps. The work was easier because users did not need to be familiar with CAD/CAM. The conversion strategy was implemented gradually and began with simple operations while personnel were trained. Initially, only the type of connection was described and all objects were numbered. A basic structure was created that mapped all objects in the distribution grids and the attribute data for all objects added. This process continues to the present. The goal is to produce a map database in which changes on a map affect all other related maps.

Gävle Energi had many parallel systems containing the same data. The company constructed the topology in GIS and created functions to integrate parallel systems into the GIS. When the conversion was completed in 1996, all paper maps were discarded. Gävle Energi missed its three-year target date for the project by only two weeks.

Using GIS Without Knowing It

In 1998, Gävle Energi introduced the GIS system Meldis, supplied by Meldis AB. The system, developed from the old GISAM system, provides a platform characterized by a great deal of GIS and very little CAD. Topology from the old system was completely transferred without any problems. The system contains a central database that stores geographic data and maps. Files are sent and retrieved from databases, and data kept in Meldis is displayed in client databases. Users in the operations center—planners, field personnel, and others—can now use their systems via Meldis. Instead of working directly in text-based systems, users can get summaries and presentations along with maps and graphics. Very few of these users know they are using GIS-to them, it is just another program.

Many Management Functions

Meldis also offers several functions that include planned interruption notification, interruption and incident registration, grid calculations, reports, planning, cost calculations, maintenance with work order management, and depreciation using a financial asset register.

The attribute data contains information on the age of objects, which is used to produce present purchase values from the financial asset register. "In our planning work, the most important factor is knowing the age of an object in the distribution grids so we can plan maintenance and calculate future investment needs. There is a comprehensive history of our grids in Meldis," explained Sälg.

Databases are also linked to Meldis. One example is the system for notification of planned interruptions. Meldis performs an interruption analysis that brings up the affected area and shows the companies and individuals affected. With one click, notification cards are printed out. The whole notification process takes five minutes instead of three hours.

Sales campaigns for the municipal broadband network provide another example. When a potential broadband customer expresses an interest in this service, this information is linked to the customer's address and property register and included in the map of the broadband grid. Sales staff can produce maps in Meldis that identify properties, along and near the broadband grid, whose owners have expressed an interest in the service.

ArcGIS Provides Information Online

In 2003, Meldis was upgraded to a new version based on ArcGIS that allows municipal companies and services to use a common environment and access all information online. "An important reason for success with GIS is our close and excellent partnership with Meldis AB. As the new version of Meldis uses ArcGIS, we were able to transfer the geography down to the central database and work online with all systems and databases," explained Sälg.

At Gävle Energi, ArcEditor is used to edit and register data. ArcView is used to display maps and perform calculations, and ArcReader is used for presentation. Maps and data are available to all personnel, on PCs in offices and laptops in the field. Meldis' ArcGIS platform can create and display map images in any scale. This modular approach is appreciated by Gävle Energi. "With ArcGIS, it's a case of 'plugging in' new modules and there is, of course, an abundance of finished preparations, calculations, and much more," emphasized Sälg.

Meldis contains more than 500,000 graphic objects and more than 83,000 logical connections. GIS, with its topology and linked databases, provides nearly limitless opportunities for use. "The journey to where we are today has been long. Our aim was for our GIS to be as close to reality as possible, and now it seems we are almost there. It has taken passion, patience, and precision, but many of us who work with GIS also run marathons," said Sälg.

For more information, contact

Håkan Sälg
Gävle Energi
Tel.: +46 26 17 86 10
Bjorn Persson
Meldis AB
Tel.: +46 651 10 536

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