On the Job: Spatial Data System Keeps Utility Moving Forward

14 Jul, 2005 Cadalyst

FirstEnergy Selects Autodesk to Modernize Distribution System

FirstEnergy, the operator of the nation's fifth-largest investor-owned electric system, has chosen to expand its use of Autodesk's geospatial products and services to create an enhanced platform for utility distribution network design and management.

Building on existing Autodesk investments that enable integration of geographic and design data, FirstEnergy will deploy a new Web-based solution to more effectively create and use geospatial data from its utility distribution system throughout the enterprise. As a result, FirstEnergy expects to gain competitive advantage through improved customer responsiveness and satisfaction, increased system reliability and reduced operating costs. Based in Akron, Ohio, FirstEnergy provides retail energy and related services to 4.4 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The company has been using an Autodesk GIS (geographic information system) for ten years. The system's 2,000 users create more than 20,000 new design projects each month. It is also the system of record for all FirstEnergy distribution system physical infrastructure and circuit connectivity models, and several critical downstream systems depend on its availability, including work management and outage management.

Figure 1. The main work design screen in FirstEnergy's new Autodesk Map 3D system.

Although the current system is recognized for its industrial-strength back-end, FirstEnergy needed a modernized front-end user interface for its designers and a more efficient way to share its rich geospatial information with nontechnical users. To facilitate a safe and rapid deployment, a global team from Autodesk Consulting will work closely with FirstEnergy to upgrade its existing Autodesk and Oracle database technologies, deploy Autodesk Map 3D 2006 to 600 designers and make the information accessible to more than 1,400 additional users via the Web using Autodesk MapGuide 6.5. Autodesk Consulting will also ensure effective knowledge transfer for the new system to FirstEnergy, so FirstEnergy personnel can maintain and support the Autodesk solution.

Figure 2. Autodesk Map 3D lets First Energy users create new features by dragging and dropping.

The new Autodesk solution will give FirstEnergy employees more direct, intuitive access to the geospatial information they need to do their jobs better. For example, CRI (circuit reliability index) maps are used by management to proactively monitor distribution circuit reliability and reduce outages by deploying field resources more effectively. The new system will provide FirstEnergy's Energy Delivery team with access to this vital information anytime, anywhere via a Web browser in just seconds. In addition, expenses such as paper and shipping will be significantly reduced.

Figure 3. The Compatible Unit Lookup Screen in FirstEnergy's spatial data system.

"The solution we're deploying with Autodesk -- particularly gaining Web-based, real-time access to up-to-date, accurate circuit reliability index maps for each customer -- will help differentiate FirstEnergy from its competitors," says Brad Ewing, vice president of Energy Delivery at FirstEnergy. "In fact, this initiative represents one of the most significant advances in my 22-year career at FirstEnergy."