The extreme weather landscape is changing, and utility operations and incident commanders are seeking new solutions to help them adjust to the volatility. A case in point is last year’s hurricane season, which, despite being average, saw the third-highest number of billion-dollar U.S. disasters since 1980, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There were 18 separate billion-dollar weather events, including Hurricane Ian — the third most costly storm in U.S. history. These weather events indicate rising global-average temperatures are contributing to widespread changes in weather patterns, leading to more frequent and extreme events, like heat waves and larger, more intense storms.
In 2022, the United States experienced 18 separate billion-dollar weather events.
While most attention around storm-related power outages focuses on the short-term impacts, these events also have immediate and long-term effects. In addition to the costs of restoration crews and lost power for customers, utilities may face regulatory fines and reputational crises, especially if the outage lasts several days. Early planning and prepositioning response crews are critical to reducing outage duration during significant storms. The challenge is determining how many outages may happen in specific service areas based on the storm’s severity and the necessary level of response several days before it hits. Finding the right tools and forecasting technology to inform decisions for the most efficient response efforts is key to minimizing the financial impacts of power outages.
Beyond having the most up-to-date weather forecasts for extreme events, several other factors must also be considered when allocating resources, mainly when used to preposition crews, order and provision supplies, or right-size responses. This decision-making can be even more complicated when multiple states may be affected, and requests for mutual assistance may be initiated days ahead of the storm as a proactive measure. The financial impact can be sizable, and it has been reported some utilities, even for mid-sized outage events, may spend as much as $20 million; annual costs for larger, investor-owned utilities can reach more than $200 million. With the average duration of outages experienced by U.S. customers increasing by 11% annually, managing outages is a growing priority for utilities.
With the average duration of outages experienced by U.S. customers increasing by 11% annually, managing outages is a growing priority for utilities.The financial impact of restoration efforts isn’t the only contributing factor leading to increased interest in outage prediction and management. With a growing number of state regulators enacting fines against utilities for extended outages, performance-based regulation is gaining traction in the United States. Performance-based regulation compensates utilities for performance rather than service costs, with a top focus on reliability, emissions reductions, and cost control. Real-time insights combined with industry risk assessments provide the intelligence that a utility needs to decide when and where to position crews or ask for mutual assistance.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the customer. Utility customers want accurate, reliable information from their providers, especially during extreme storms. When power restoration takes longer than expected, customers may become vocal about dissatisfaction, including amplifying their complaints on social media. But utilities that use advanced technology to help with severe weather prediction and response report a 39% improvement in customer satisfaction, according to a T&D World and Utility Analytics Institute study commissioned by DTN. While using insights helps with efficient outage management, they could be shared with customers, too. In the age of instant information, today’s customers want updates on the current situation, what actions are being deployed, and how long to expect the power outage to last. One large utility reported being better able to quickly communicate with customers with high confidence in their outage prediction technology.
Utilities that use advanced technology to help with severe weather prediction and response report a 39% improvement in customer satisfaction.
As the climate continues to change, effective management of weather-related risks from hurricanes and other extreme events becomes more complex. Utilities can make better-informed decisions with new, right-time, utility industry-interpreted weather intelligence through products like DTN Storm Risk Analytics, which were not previously available. With real-time insights, utilities can confidently anticipate, prepare, and respond, restoring service with timely data modeled specifically for critical utility industry planning and response factors.
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