“Not long ago, people tried to convince me Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) had limited value; it was only going to collect billing information. Today, we’ve seen AMI as a powerful data feed for understanding customer load growth and the impact of distributed energy resources and evaluating power quality across our system. I see GIS in the same light. It is underrepresented and underutilized and will be even bigger in moving us to the future of energy delivery.
Arizona Public Service Innovates with GIS—Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Arizona Public Service (APS) is the largest electric utility in Arizona. It serves 2.7 million Arizonans over 35,000 square miles. Founded in 1886 as the Phoenix Gas and Electric Light Company, its territory stretches from the border town of Douglas to the vistas of the Grand Canyon. Its more than 6,000 employees power the vision of creating a sustainable energy future.
APS pioneered the use of geographic information system (GIS) technology in 1994 when it migrated its paper circuit maps to Esri’s ArcInfo software. It has been a leader in the GIS community since then. In addition, it has continued to strengthen its asset data. Recently, APS has commenced a statewide data conflation effort to improve spatial accuracy in addition to transmission and distribution data cleanup efforts in preparation for the ArcGIS Utility Network. When complete, APS will have one of the most comprehensive and reliable GIS models in the industry, its grid data spanning from the power plant generator breakers to each customer’s meter.
As with many utility projects, the focus has been on the grid GIS data. But APS knew that sharing and analyzing the GIS data had untapped potential. It further saw that resources were limited with the modernization efforts underway in IT. As a result, it needed to tap into the expertise within the business units. At the same time, APS did not want to create unsupported and unofficial applications.
The solution was to deploy Esri’s web and mobile tools to end users through something APS calls the GIS Power User Group. APS became more agile in implementing its apps that complied with IT standards and practices. This solution freed IT to manage the GIS infrastructure, hardware, and licensing. It was a win-win situation. Gartner refers to this concept as citizen development.
APS has a long history of having a rich system of record of its transmission and distribution assets. This citizen development process moved the GIS from a limited office application to an enterprise one: GIS for nearly everyone in the company. In effect, the GIS has become a system of record and a system of engagement. One notable example is the hugely successful Mobile Vegetation Management (MVM) app. The GIS team partnered with the Forestry, Fire, & Resource Management group to digitally transform its work. This work included inspections, treatment, trimming, auditing, and reporting. This manual process was automated using Esri’s ArcGIS Survey123 and ArcGIS Field Maps apps.
Here are just of few examples of user-developed apps:
• Distribution Line Inspection
• UG Equipment Inspections
• Streetlight Data Corrections
• Customer Construction Contacts Lookup (on APS.com)
• Substation Nonelectrical Inspection App for Landscape, Property, and Weed Management
• Avian Protection Tracking
• Defensible Space Around Poles (DSAP) Maintenance
• Wildfire Awareness Dashboard
• Quick Capture Aerial Vegetation Patrols
• Various Environmental Asset Inspections
• T&D Engineering Standards QA Inspections
This geographic approach benefits the employees. It has accelerated APS’s digital transformation efforts. The GIS team trained end users on the tools and capabilities of GIS. The employees were excited to see their work in action—and quickly, sometimes within several days or weeks.
“The GIS Power User Group will support an efficient and effective frontline GIS strategy for all business groups by developing and empowering power users to share innovative ideas, define standards, create and identify common data sources, and lead in change management for scaling GIS within the business.”
Rami Alygad, Manager, Smart Grid & GIS, APS
This success begets more innovation. This process also benefits the IT organization, freeing it to improve infrastructure, performance, governance, and scalability. The customers benefit. GIS apps essentially eliminated the error-prone and costly paper processes. They lower costs and increase data integrity. This process aligns with APS’s Customer Affordability Program.
Applying GIS: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
In the past, APS built a strong foundation with its Esri GIS. Its system is integrated with Schneider Electric’s Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) and CYME network analysis package.
Today APS is moving its GIS to nearly all employees in the company with simple-to-use mobile and web apps. In addition, APS is in the process of installing Spatial Business Systems’ (SBS) Automated Utility Design (AUD) to streamline the design of GIS work streams.
APS is still not satisfied. Its vision is to add more analytics. This involves crafting more dashboards for insight into the progress of projects. APS plans to use Esri’s demographic tools to gain additional insight into the relationship of its service to its diverse population. It plans to ramp up its use of GIS as a tool to analyze and understand its system from a customer perspective, focusing on customer experience, especially through the lenses of environmental, social, and governance strategies.
APS recently subscribed to a new Esri product that combines the convenience of a single learning management system (LMS) with the company’s high-quality e-learning resources created by experts in Esri technology and adult learning. Esri Academy LMS integration makes Esri’s extensive collection of e-Learning resources available to APS to enhance workforce expertise with GIS software. The LMS integration will be a key component to administering training to future GIS power users and proliferating the use of the system across the enterprise.
APS has fully embraced a geospatial strategy through its journey with GIS. In the past, the GIS team built a complete, accurate, and integrated system of record. Today, APS continues to expand its GIS reach as a system of engagement, aiming to reach its over 6,000 employees. Finally, APS expects to expand the system of insight for better decision-making for its employees, customers, and shareholders.