The Tantalus Users Conference (TUC) was back this year in Louisville, Kentucky and it was truly a pleasure to gather in person again after so long. We thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting and seeing so many familiar faces last week — and so many new ones! We talked about tapping into the power of data and building the Utility of the Future, showcased our latest solutions including the TRUSense Gateway and Transformer Analytics, learned more about how Congruitive helps with interoperable data behind the meter, explored the trends shaping the future of our industry, and celebrated our customer community.
For those of you who missed it, here’s a recap from the week.
RECONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY
The week started off with an inspiring tour of the Muhammad Ali Center on Sunday, and we made Derby hats and packed bags of food for Blessings in a Backpack during our first big gathering on Monday night. On Tuesday night we got to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory and some of us got to taste and make our own bourbon at Barrels & Billets just next door. We had a great closing session on Wednesday night where we recognized several Tantalus customers for outstanding work in their communities and said thanks for the opportunity to gather again.
OPENING SESSION: THE POWER OF DATA
But TUC is about more than just having fun (though that is a huge part of it!). It’s also about anticipating the challenges ahead and learning how Tantalus is helping you prepare for those challenges. It’s about learning from other utilities accomplishing extraordinary things. It’s about getting clearer on how to become the Utility of the Future. It’s about making sure you get every last ounce of value from our solutions. And this year, more than ever, TUC was about tapping into the power of data.
During our opening session on Tuesday, our guest speakers talked about how to think like a futurist, the results of our inaugural Utility of the Future Survey, and a blueprint for building that future together.
Scott Steinberg started us off and showed us how to think like a futurist — and that the future is not that far away. He shared that successful organizations are going to be making the most of the data that is becoming more available every day, and now is the time for smart investments to avoid falling behind. As Scott referenced, we do not need to be an expert technologist to be innovative, nor do we need to focus on the next transformational idea. Rather, leveraging anticipatory leadership, being creative with processes and making use of your existing resources, especially data, is enough to be innovative and drive great change.
Josh Reynolds from Rob Roy Consulting continued our focus on utilities and innovative thinking. He presented the top findings from Tantalus’ inaugural Utility of the Future Survey and a recap of the latest trends in our industry. Utilities face multiple challenges from many angles, many of which can feel overwhelming, and the trick is to prioritize the challenges you’re most concerned about and feel the least prepared to address. Tapping into the power of data is one of the best ways to innovate and prepare for multiple challenges at the same time.
Finally, Andres Carvallo wrapped up the opening session with his talk on the next generation of smart grid solutions and how to build the Utility of the Future. Andres urged our user community to leverage the power of data and to expand beyond the meter. Resilient, reliable and successful utilities will be the ones that go behind the meter. Truly some great guidance from a smart grid pioneer!
COMMUNITY STRONG RECOGNITION
We were also proud to celebrate our amazingly resourceful, resilient and purpose-driven community of customers. There are so many inspiring examples across the community where people are tapping into the power of data. And we were proud to celebrate five utilities through this year’s Community Strong Awards. This year’s winner, PES Energize, received a $9,000 donation to their Home Uplift Program. We also celebrated our four runner-up winners, who were each given $2,500 donations for their community programs:
- Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Mobile Lifehouse partnership
- Franklin Rural Electric Cooperative, Operation Servant Leadership
- La Plata Electric Association, Colorado’s first V2G-enabled school bus
- NineStar Connect, Cooperative Service Day
INVESTING IN YOUR FUTURE
But more than anything else, TUC is about sharing with you how we’re investing in your future, and listening to you about where you want to see even more innovation.
Traditionally, utilities have had limited visibility into what’s happening behind the meter and are unprepared for the dire operational and public safety consequences of increasingly unpredictable loads and strains put on local transformers by electric vehicles (EVs) and other distributed energy resources (DERs). Without this kind of visibility, they risk outages, explosions, fire hazards, and legal liabilities. But with the TRUSense Gateway, utilities can capture and analyze granular power quality data to optimize the distribution grid and prioritize areas that need to be upgraded, integrate behind-the-meter EVs and DERs, develop data-driven offerings to bridge the digital divide and expand business models, and embrace the full benefits of AMI 2.0 beyond billing and outage reporting.
At the same time, transformer supply has been severely impacted and transformer health is now more important than ever, making it critical that utilities know what’s going on with their transformers in the grid. A single power interruption caused by transformer issues can cost a community hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost economic revenue. In order for utilities to enable their customers’ success amidst these challenges, the time to invest in real-time insights is now. With Tantalus’ Transformer Analytics solution, utilities can, for the first time ever, monitor, anticipate and prioritize transformer issues in near-real time, before they happen. This means they can avoid the costs, disruptions in service and safety issues that transformer failures bring. What’s more, they can proactively plan ahead on how best to manage and upgrade their assets to stay one step ahead of trouble.
Congruitive continues the focus on the importance of data by helping make data behind the meter and across the distribution grid interoperable and lets the TRUSense Gateway access that data in a secure way through emerging IEEE 2030.5 protocols. At the same time, it lets utilities at all stages of their innovation journey start to get ahead and incorporate EVs and other DERs through a SCADA-as-a-Service offering, no matter what resource constraints they might be facing. Congruitive also provides the Advanced Data Acquisition Management System (ADAMS) utilities are looking for to gather data from any device, using any protocol. Data can be securely transported and routed to the applications that need the data and automatically kept up to date.
New Sources of Funding
There is an increasing amount of resources and funds available to help you modernize, digitize and thrive, as we learned about government funding through our Stimulus Funding panel. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) allocate funds for utilities to modernize and digitize their grids and for consumers to switch to EVs and install rooftop solar, EV charging, and more. We will continue to run more webinars and workshops on this topic, which you can read about here.
And we’re just getting started, with more great solutions coming soon. That’s why we were so excited about how attendees at this year’s TUC spent their Tantalus Bucks! The top five items represented about 70% of the total Bucks “invested”, and those items were:
- Keeping my AMI system healthy so I can eliminate truck rolls and keep my data coming in
- Transformer issues, I need to know that my transformers are properly sized and healthy so I can manage my transformer inventory
- Reliability of the distribution grid, I need to ensure that my customers get quality power so they can run their businesses and live their lives comfortably
- I want a self-healing and healthy distribution grid that reduces the need for utility manual intervention and improves grid reliability
- I want to get real-time data from my distribution devices so I can view the status on my distribution grid
We’re particularly excited about these results as Tantalus is already working to leverage existing TUNet deployments and developing the TRUSense Gateway and Tantalus Transformer Analytics, all of which directly address those top “investment categories.”
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR
We can’t wait to see you all again at TUC 2024! We’ll announce the conference time and location soon. When we do, don’t forget to apply for the Community Strong Awards—and our inaugural Tantalus Innovation Award, which will acknowledge the most innovative ways you all are tapping into the power of data.
Thank you for all you do for our community! We’ll see you soon!