Ameren, Nokia Win UTC Award for Private LTE Trial
Wednesday, August 26, 2020 | Comments

Ameren won the 2020 Utility Technology Council (UTC) APEX award for its groundbreaking Nokia-powered private LTE field trial. The trial, which exceeded performance and scalability expectations, is part of the company’s digital transformation journey to a more reliable and sustainable electric grid.

The UTC APEX award recognizes individuals and organizations who have implemented innovative projects, taken actions or initiated procedures that leverage communications technologies or information systems to make a significant impact on the utility industry.

Ameren, which powers 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area, is installing a robust fiber IP/multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network to connect critical assets and operations centers as part of its digital transformation plan. The next stage is to extend communications to support the proliferation of grid control devices that are being deployed for distribution automation (DA) and internet of things (IoT) applications. The field trial allowed Ameren to determine if private LTE technology was the right fit for the company’s needs, including whether Nokia’s private LTE could provide the required performance metrics and operational and cost efficiencies required.

Ameren successfully executed the private LTE field trial in Missouri and Illinois during 2019 to validate 14 use cases for DA and enabling workforce mobility. Each of the use cases represented an old methodology of connectivity being replaced by the new Nokia private LTE network, which simplified the management and maintenance of the overall communications network by replacing 20 networks with just one. Ameren extended its proven IP/MPLS service, security and maintenance environment over private LTE to critical grid assets on the edge.

Based upon the trial results, Nokia’s private LTE far exceeded expectations for performance and scalability requirements for field communications. In addition to better than expected technical results, the trial also highlighted the significant daily operational impact. These included a dramatic reduction in the number of networks to support, fewer skillsets to maintain, fewer spares and fewer maintenance contracts. The integration with the IP/MPLS backbone enabled its well-known service, security and management environment to be extended towards the distribution grid edge with private LTE which ensures performance and simplifies operations.

“We’re extremely pleased that the UTC is recognizing Ameren for its digital transformation efforts,” said Mike Calabrese, senior vice president, Americas, Nokia Enterprise. “By focusing on P-LTE for DA and workforce mobility, Ameren can now address critical elements in many utilities’ transformation plans. Ameren’s private wireless field trial is a valuable industry resource that will help utility companies around the world more intelligently guide their transformation while reducing risk and increasing efficiency."

UTC’s awards recognize the importance of utility information and communications technology (ICT) systems and the employees who build, operate and maintain these systems to support the reliability, resilience and safety of the nation’s electric systems. From storm response to day-to-day reliability, ICT networks can also provide opportunities for communities to enhance economic prosperity, provide innovative new services, and support health, education and access to critical services.

“Congratulations to all of our winners this year,” said UTC Chairman of the Board Greg Angst of CenterPoint Energy. “2020 has been an especially trying year for our world and our industry. Yet time and again, our incredible workforce has risen to the challenge to provide our essential utility services in the midst of unprecedented challenges. These awards go to the heart of what makes UTC so special: the people, the utilities and the vendors who make up our membership. Every day our members work hard to support reliable, resilient, and affordable energy and water services to people and businesses. It is an honor to recognize a select few for their service.”

The Dondanville Award, which was established in 1989 and is named in honor of UTC’s first President and CEO Russell V. Dondanville, went to Brett Kilbourne, general counsel and vice president, policy, UTC. The award recognizes an individual’s extraordinary service and dedication to UTC over the years through active participation in numerous association activities.

The Meehan Award, established in 1998 in honor of Charles M. Meehan, UTC’s first executive director, recognizes individuals for their extraordinary leadership in projects that greatly furthered the interests and objectives of UTC during the past year. That award went to Sheila Wells of Nashville Electric Service.

The Connie Durcsak Visionary Award recognizes an individual at a member utility who has personally exemplified and embodied the visionary spirit for our industry that Durcsak modeled herself and was won by Ron Beck of Central Lincoln Public Utility District.

Chairman Awards are given in appreciation for service to UTC during the past calendar year. This year’s winners were Beck, Central Lincoln Public Utility District; Dr. Andreas Breuer, Innogy S.E; Dewey Day, Pacific Gas & Electric; Kevin Huff, Salt River Project; Paul Lambert, East River Electric Cooperative; Tom Perry, UTC; Sheryl Riggs, UTC; Matt Schnell, Nebraska Public Power District; Sheila Wells, Nashville Electric Service.

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