In some parts of the world, losing power regularly and even for days is a normal and accepted part of life. In the U.S., such a situation is unthinkable, but outages are becoming more common with the rise in extreme weather incidents. The following is a brief review of what steps are involved in the power restoration process?
This article will give you a quick overview of the steps that energy companies take to restore power after a storm hits. If you are a utility executive reading this article, the article will also briefly touch on the Storm Impact Analytics (SIA) system. It will cover how this damage and outage incident prediction system can support a more prepared response to service interruptions.
These subsequent sections outline for you a quick overview of the challenging steps involved in the power restoration process.
The power restoration process
Several urgent steps must be taken by your energy company when a widespread power outage occurs. As you will see, several vital steps are needed before a crew can arrive in the immediately affected vicinity.
When you are affected by a power outage, the first thing you want and expect to see is the reassuring sight of a crew in your local area working on the situation. You might even see a crew drive past on their way to another location and wonder why they are bypassing you.
The fact is, the linemen or other workers you see could be on their way to a critical situation in another area. It could be an emergency scene that needs addressing before electricity can safely reach your neighborhood.
Step 1 – Public safety
The energy company’s first and most urgent task is to identify and locate any downed power lines where electricity could still be flowing through the wires. In general, the first step for the energy company is to assess the full extent of the damage and ensure public safety. Next, they evaluate infrastructure and verify the accessibility of roads for crews to do their work.
Here is an important rule you can follow to maintain safety during power outages. When you see a downed or damaged power line, do not assume that it is dead. Every power line is potentially hazardous until utility workers arrive to make certain that the power has been cut.
Damaged power lines and loose wires can be extremely dangerous or even fatal, so keep a safe distance
Step 2 – Repair transmission and substation facilities
Before power can return to your home and your local neighborhood certain problems have to be addressed first. It makes sense that any issues with transmission or substation equipment and main distribution lines must be resolved first. Resolution of these issues comes first because the transmission and substation facilities supply power for local distribution systems.
Do the terms such as ‘transmission’ and ‘substation’ sound unfamiliar to you? If so, here is a link to a great graphic that can help you understand the electricity distribution system and any unfamiliar terms.
Step 3 – Critical infrastructure and essential facilities
Another clear priority for an energy company is to restore power to critical infrastructure. Critical infrastructure would include communications facilities, hospitals, other key medical sites, law enforcement, fire department, and water treatment facilities.
Step 4 – Distribution lines and tap lines
Finally, local power lines undergo repairs and are returned to service. These smaller capacity lines are the ones that deliver electricity to your neighborhood and others. After this, you may see crews closer to your home working on the tap lines that serve individual homes.
The length of time it takes for the power restoration process depends on the severity and extent of the storm’s damage. It also depends on how many outages and how quickly utility personnel can arrive on the scene where the damage has occurred.
How can energy companies speed up the process?
Does understanding the steps involved in restoring the power make the average customer more patient when the power does go out? Not likely.
Customers just want their power back on right away with as little delay as possible. Most probably don’t care what is going on behind the scenes.
You may be familiar with the Jerry Seinfeld skit about the pilot. From memory, it goes something like, “you get on the plane, and the pilot comes on the P.A. system to say, ‘I’m going to take it up to 20,000 feet, then I’m going to make a left by Pittsburgh and a right by Chicago..’ I’m in the back going, ‘Yeah, fine, whatever, as long as I end up where it says on the ticket!”’
How can energy companies and utility executives make sure that customers get their power back with as minimal a delay as possible?
The answer lies in being proactive. This is particularly important when handling a major event. Mobilizing outside resources to achieve the estimated time of restorations (ETRs) that your customers are demanding takes time.
Being proactive when faced with a major weather event will cut down the time it takes to get those outside resources lined up and in place. Coordinating an efficient response requires an accurate forecast and the ability to quickly implement a plan.
An accurate forecast alone is not enough
For a proper strategic storm response, much more is required than just an accurate weather forecast. That forecast, while essential, also needs to be combined with analytics and machine learning capabilities to understand the unique operations of your utility.
Using weather and non-weather-related data, Storm Impact Analytics uses statistical modeling and predictive analytics. This technology can help determine the impact of weather on your assets so that you can efficiently coordinate a targeted response.
The process for restoring power after a storm involves several steps, and being able to work more efficiently is the only way to reduce the time needed to get the power back up.
Accessing SIA’s machine-learning approach and experienced meteorologists will give you an inroad to the entire scope of information you and your utility company need. This system will enable you to restore the power more efficiently.
Continued customer satisfaction yields results that go directly to your bottom line. You can best achieve this continued customer satisfaction by taking outage and damage prediction to the next level.
For more details on how the Storm Impact Analytics system can enhance your outage response strategy, check out Storm Impact Analytics (SIA).