Within the past two decades, studies have shown that utilities have significantly improved their storm response performance while cutting the duration of storm outages and increasing the rate in which power is being restored.
As with most things, storm response has improved through experience. For example, past storms can be very useful in improving a utility’s logistics. In the case of crossarms, truckloads are often divided among different service locations. It is important to have a good idea of the usage at each location to properly divide truckloads. With properly divided trucks, all crews can be kept supplied with the proper amount of crossarms, rather than having a portion of the repair crews supplied with more than they need, while other crews wait on a truck that may not arrive until the next day.
While utilities are constantly improving techniques and processes for quick recovery, many are quick to criticize the restoration efforts. Customers should remember that every situation is different, and it’s difficult to follow one set of rules. It is, however, crucial for utilities to have constant communication with their customers and communities, because let’s face it- we are addicted to electricity…and social media.
Customers without electricity should also remember that utility companies have a set priority to restoring electricity:
1. Emergency services: hospitals, fire stations, police, and first aid
2. Circuits serving the largest area of customers
3. Individual homes and businesses
According to a study conducted in 2003 by the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), four things stand out about the progress of utility storm response:
- The rate at which utilities are able to restore power to customers following a major storm event has improved.
- The average number of days required to complete restoration efforts has decreased.
- While the number of restoration workers deployed has decreased, the number of customers restored per worker has increased.
- Recent storms do not appear to have been any more or less severe, based on equipment damage.
System Hardening, as defined by EEI, is physical changes to the utility’s infrastructure to make it less susceptible to storm damage, with the hardening improving durability and stability of transmission and distribution infrastructure, allowing the system to withstand the impacts of severe weather events with minimal damage.
Resiliency, defined by EEI, refers to the ability of utilities to recover quickly from damage to any of its facilities’ components or to any of the external systems, not necessarily preventing damage, but enabling electric facilities to continue operating despite damage.
EEI Hardening Measures:
- Undergrounding- eliminate poles and bury distribution lines underground to shield them from severe weather events.
- Higher Design and Construction Standards- elevate substations and other vulnerable facilities that are susceptible to flooding, and hardening measures for pole designs to withstand high winds and mitigate widespread outages.
- Smart Grid- although this technology is still being developed, it would allow the system to detect outages and remotely reroute electricity to undamaged circuits and feeders.
- Microgrid- still in study phase, but this idea is that it functions as an isolatable distribution network, usually connected to one or more distributed generation sources that connect s and disconnects from the main grid in times of widespread outages.
- Advanced Technology- various mapping technologies such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Automated Mapping Facilities Management (AM/FM).
EEI Resiliency Measures:
- Shared or Contract Labor Force- secure enough crew members in preparation for major weather events in advance.
- Standby Equipment- such as strategic alliances or material consignment, equipped trucks, GPS devices and also secure enough fuel for service trucks.
- Restoration Materials- adequate backup restoration supplies such as poles, wires, transformers and other components that are easily obtained through contracts with suppliers.
- Enhanced Communication, Planning & Coordination- make sure to have pre-staging areas and staging areas set up in advance, also have a single point of contact who communicates updates and information to customers, communities and crew members.
- Advanced Technologies- Outage Management Systems are used to detect and report reliability issues, also infrared scanning for surface and airborne damage assessment.