Utility Network Jumpstart Answers Critical Questions at IREA
Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA) had read every blog post and white paper that we could find on the new Esri Utility Network, and there were still many more questions than answers. They wanted answers to their Utility Network questions.
IREA is a nonprofit electric distribution cooperative that serves more than 150,000 customers inside a 5,000-square-mile service territory along Colorado’s Front Range. Their headquarters is in Sedalia, Co., and district offices are in Conifer, Strasburg and Woodland Park — also in Colorado.
I’m sure many of you remember Jack Dangermond’s letter to the utilities three years ago. It told us to get to a desktop version (10.2.1) and stay put until further notice. Six months earlier — at the Electric and Gas conference in San Antonio — the Esri team laid out a conceptual view of radical changes to how the network topologies will change for utilities. It’s clear now what Jack and the technical teams were alluding to: the new Utility Network. It’s also clear that your GIS software will need to change if you want to take advantage of these advances in technology.
This is where ArcGIS Pro comes in.
The SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program provides the opportunity for hands-on experience with both of these epic changes to Utility GIS. Considering the Utility Network is in restricted beta, and that ArcGIS Pro is still relatively new, I will say that not everything ran as smooth as possible. There is still some cleanup required for both these technologies.
It will be critical for utilities to provide feedback as Esri enhances ArcGIS Pro. This puts the polish to the Utility Network. Each utility operates slightly different than the next, so the more utilities providing feedback, the easier it will be to migrate to the next era in Utility GIS.
The Solution: Starting the Utility Network Jumpstart at IREA
The GIS team at Intermountain REA (IREA) had the fortunate opportunity to get hands on with Esri’s new Utility Network through the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart. The first two days of this ten-day experience were the most anticipated. All the machines were powered on and logged in, and we were ready to go. Once our mentor Corey arrived, the Jumpstart began with a lecture.
The next two hours became the most impactful part of our Utility Network experience. We had seen all the Utility Network blog posts by SSP, and Brian Higgins’s “CliffsNotes” version is required reading for the IREA GIS team (including the links he references). The presentation and resulting discussions brought so much light to the somewhat mystical information we had seen so far.
Deep Inside the Jumpstart at IREA
Beyond just showing the model presentation, the lecture discussed the feature and object classes that would be behind the model. There are significant changes, but clear explanations behind the reasoning were provided.
We learned about how the Utility Network blends geometric coincidence and associations to provide connectivity, along with clear examples when to use them. One of the new concepts in the Utility Network is that of containment and attachment. The power to analyze and gather information regarding these non-energized components in relation to the circuits they are supporting will be a welcome change.
There are more details to the UN model, such as tiers and subnetworks, but this is a project recap, not a thesis!
Understandably, there is concern and maybe even fear about the new Utility Network. We have read every blog post and white paper that we could find on the subject, and there were still many more questions than answers. While the jumpstart can’t possibly answer every question, it did ease our minds and answer our most critical concern. It did so by showing us that the Utility Network is not that difficult to understand. After all, the physical networks of our utilities — the facilities in the field — haven’t changed.
The other accomplishment we realized was a conceptual understanding of how our data will look under the Utility Network. This will allow us to keep the Utility Network at the forefront in our minds as we plan and implement other business systems and upgrades. We will have the vision to know if integration will be problematic or not.
In his own words, IREA Director of GIS Duane Holt said:
“The most important results attained from our Utility Network Jump Start experience were the understanding of the new data model and the opportunity to mold the transformation of Esri’s Digital Utility. Working with SSP on the jumpstart allowed IREA to gain this understanding in the most efficient and effective manner possible. I highly recommend the Jumpstart to help you put your utility one step ahead of the upcoming changes.”