Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) announced its data analytics work has been recognized as the most innovative among over 150 utilities across the U.S. and the world by the Utility Analytics Institute (UAI). The UAI praised SoCalGas' use of data analytics to increase safety, save money for its customers, improve customer service, help conserve energy, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Increased energy conservation is among the many benefits of SoCalGas' data analytics work. For example, the utility's data analytics team developed a way to identify customers who were less likely to conserve energy during a winter cold snap, allowing the company to target those households with reminders of the tools and information available to help them manage their natural gas use. This initiative is now saving these targeted customers over 300,000 therms of energy every year, reducing the bills of as many as 100,000 customers and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. These reductions are among the more than 36.5 million therms SoCalGas helped natural gas users conserve through energy efficiency last year—saving customers more than $64 million and reducing carbon emissions linked to climate change by nearly 193,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 42,000 cars off the road for a year.
SoCalGas is also using data analytics to increase the safety of its employees and customers, and the new safety challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic provide one example: since the pandemic began, data analytics have allowed pinpoint accuracy in predicting the number and location of customer service orders, allowing for highly effective inventory management of personal protective equipment as well as appropriate staffing at the 75 facilities across SoCalGas' 24,000 square mile service territory.
The data analytics team is also working to keep employees safe by providing customer service technicians with data to help them avoid hazards. Each technician will soon be provided with notice of hazardous driving routes prone to accidents, COVID-19 case rates in various geographic areas, and reminders of special safety precautions and gear required for certain types of service calls.
Preventing damage to gas pipelines is another way SoCalGas is using data analytics to increase safety. The company gathers construction permit data to gauge the increased potential of gas line damage due to excavation. Areas where more construction permits are issued now receive additional reminders to have gas pipeline areas marked prior to any construction digging, along with other gas safety information.
In another example, data analytics is allowing SoCalGas to drastically reduce vehicle trips to inspect gas meters, which both increases employee safety and reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with driving. In-depth analysis of data from the company's Advance Meter technology can now accurately identify faulty meters without physical inspections. Every year, almost 50,000 inspection trips are avoided, leading to about 370,000 fewer miles driven, and saving 180 metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions per year.
The UAI is a global consortium of over 160 member utilities and provides support to the industry with the goal of advancing utility transformation through analytics and digital innovation. To win the award, SoCalGas' Performance Management and Operational Strategy (PMOS) team underwent panel interviews and provided case studies to demonstrate the many innovative ways they have tackled complex business processes and problems across SoCalGas.