What is GIS?

A Geographic Information System is designed to work with data referenced by geographic coordinates, such as latitude and longitude. A GIS includes procedures to capture, store, query and analyze data, as well as methods to display the data as maps and reports. In this model, geographic features are categorized as points, lines, or areas. For example, cell towers are points, gas pipelines are lines, and electric service areas are areas. An important feature of a GIS is that each geographic feature is linked to a database, so that the electric service area can be described with attributes, such as the owner, type of utility, number of residential customers, and so on.

The Public Service Commission is focusing on collecting data statewide. This is a different scale of accuracy and detail than is required for a utility to operate its plant with GIS or a closely related technology. AM/FM (Automated Mapping / Facilities Management), CADD (Computer Aided Drafting and Design), and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are acronyms for information systems closely related to GIS that are often used in the utility industry. As these technologies have matured, it has become easier to share information.

The Commission’s immediate goal is to build statewide data layers for each of the utilities. The GIS is used to answer some very basic geographic questions: Where is a particular utility? What utilities are adjacent to it? What utilities serve a particular area? At the PSC we use GIS as basic reference information for our daily business, particularly dealing with consumers, hearings, construction cases, safety, and inspections.

Revised May 15, 2003