The U.S. electric system, "the supreme engineering achievement of the 20th century," is aging, inefficient, congested, and incapable of meeting future energy needs, according to a recent U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) report. As electric utilities work to overcome challenges laid out in the DOE report, they can find guidance in a new benchmark study that focuses on a smart grid and geographic information system (GIS) technology. The study, conducted by ESRI, provides participants with customized reports comparing their smart grid readiness to that of peer groups.

Believed to be the solution to modernize utilities around the world, a smart grid adds communication and computer technology to electric networks, ensuring cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy. GIS is the sturdy platform on which utilities rely for crucial smart grid components such as data management, analysis, planning, mobile applications, visualization, and awareness.

"We want to help utilities assess their own systems and, at the same time, gain insight into what services and products we should provide to meet the industry's changing needs," said Bill Meehan, ESRI's director of utility solutions and author of the study's base survey. "GIS is widely recognized for its strong role in managing traditional electric transmission and distribution, as well as telecommunications networks. With smart grid's sophisticated communication network superimposed on the electric network, data management with GIS becomes utterly critical."

Participation in the study via online survey is open to all utilities. The names of participants and utilities will remain confidential. Utilities may participate from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31, 2009, at www.esri.com/smartgridsurvey.