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Toronto conference to focus on asset management for power utilities

 At a conference to be held February 25-25 in Toronto, one of a series of in-depth case studies to be presente...


 At a conference to be held February 25-25 in Toronto, one of a series of in-depth case studies to be presented is by Barrie Hydro Distribution concerning its new software tool for managing its assets and investments.

The quick pace of growth around Barrie, Ontario can be somewhat overwhelming. The utility serves seven power service areas connected through a series of almost 11,000 hydro poles, 650 kilometres of overhead lines, 40 substations, 793 kilometres of underground cable and almost 9,000 transformers.

But with the city’s rapid development, this infrastructure is not enough. Last year alone, Barrie Hydro Distribution had to invest more than $10 million into related expansions and upgrades.

The utility’s managers recognized four years ago that they needed a tool to compare and prioritize a complex portfolio of 40 to 50 projects at a time, in order to ensure that every possible need is met. The solution came in the form of Utility Management Services’ Asset Investment Optimizer Software Scoring Tool.

Mark Henderson, president and chief executive officer of Barrie Hydro Distribution, explains: “We wanted to have a very rigorous process, and one that was supported by some sort of technological tool that would allow us to be confident when asking for the type of capital spend[ing] dollars we needed to [request]. Ultimately we know our Board, Shareholder and regulator would start to ask for more detailed information on our capital program,” Henderson explains.

“It’s helped us to confirm that the investments that we’re asking for — and subsequently making — are grounded in a solid business case,” says Henderson.

Each project is now ranked based on strategic objectives for safety, regulatory requirements, financial responsibility, operational excellence and service quality.

The asset management strategy is obviously working. In the past three years, the organization has recorded improvements within the System Average Interruption Duration Index (with projects such as auto switching) and the System Average Interruption Frequency Index (thanks to projects such as new lightning arresters).

Part of the success has to do with the fact that the software is merely seen as a tool. “At the end of the day, you always have to take it in context,” Henderson says. “There’s obviously incredible intelligence built into this. There’s also a great deal of intelligence and experiential wisdom around the table. Ultimately, a group of senior managers make the final decision.”

The Asset Management for Energy and Utilities Conference is being held February 24 and 25 at the Marriott Toronto Bloor Yorkville Hotel in Toronto. Topics will include performance enhancement, maximizing ROI, optimizing asset lifecycles, regulatory change, lean strategies and process integration. For more information,  visit www.strategyinstitute.com/022409_ameu/dsp.php, or call 866-298-9343.