What Kind Of Weather Data Do Utilities Need?

Mark Twain once said about the weather, “In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” This unpredictability has made the average person concerned with the weather forecast. How much more so for those who hold positions of responsibility in electric utility companies? 

You need to keep an even closer eye on the weather because decisions you make based on weather data can have enormous financial consequences.

The bottom line is that utilities that stay one step ahead of the weather typically maintain a much higher level of customer service and are more competitive. 

With the Storm Impact Analytics model, your company can map all parts of your service territory impacted by forecasted severe and extreme weather events. The intelligent and actionable insights provided will improve the speed of service restoration while reducing associated costs. Furthermore, this information can be used to enhance customer communications.


How weather affects utilities

Indisputably, major power outages are on the rise. This “new normal” has put pressure on utilities across the United States to increase their readiness. They must be able to swing into action instantly to combat the challenges posed by winter weather and the extreme weather events that threaten to disrupt operations.

After a significant storm, the cost of restoring power can run into the millions of dollars for utilities companies. Additionally, it can take several days for the power to be restored. This cost is ultimately transferred to utility customers who suffer inconvenience and increased rates.

Lightning near power pole

The kind of weather data utilities need

Although major winter weather storms are the ones that grab the headlines, lesser storms with moderate to high winds can easily bring down tree branches. These can affect power and phone lines, causing severe damage and power outages. 

To combat this, your utilities company needs access to the most current and accurate wind speed and wind direction data, including details on maximum and sustained winds. 

A second critical category is temperature data. Getting an accurate temperature forecast enables efficient and timely electricity demand estimates. An under-forecast can mean expensive on-the-spot purchases to meet demand.

A third pitfall is the over-forecasting of demand. If temperatures go up with a resulting decrease in demand, this will also negatively impact profit margins. These problems can be proactively addressed with better weather data and historical and current weather information analytics.

Thus, the potential impact of weather at precise locations can be determined and your assets protected through predictive analytics.

Other important weather data that utilities need includes:

  • Ice Accretion (even a small accumulation variance can result in a downed power line)
  • Lightning (lightning related outages are estimated to cost the nation’s utility industry over $100 million annually)

Also, there is a need for non-weather data such as:

  • Vegetation (integrated vegetation data is vital for proper vegetation management, lessening the risk of power outages)
  • Utility asset records

Power lines with utility trucks

How predictive models help

Predictive models like the Storm Impact Analytics application allow you to map a utility’s entire service territory to assess the forecasted impact of severe weather. With the help of this insight, service restoration times and the associated costs can be significantly reduced. The data provided can also be used to improve communications with your customers.

With this powerful application, you can streamline your response times and perfect your restoration strategy. Historical weather data can also be leveraged to make more accurate forecasts and give reliable insights.

DTN is the most trusted source of predictive models like Storm Impact Analytics because they enhance your level of preparedness. Rather than only being alerted to weather that has the potential to cause disruption, predictive model applications can help you to anticipate the precise impact of that weather on your operations.

Using machine learning, Storm Impact Analytics learns how your specific utility responds in the event of severe weather. This historical data, including the history of outage incidents within your territory, can then be used to predict the potential impact on your operations for forecasted storms.

Fallen power pole after storm

How Storm Impact Analytics helps utilities

The Storm Impact Analytics application built on the WeatherSentry® platform from DTN leverages data to show the potential damage that is likely to result from different types of weather, including:

  • Tropical
  • Snow
  • Wind
  • Ice
  • Rain
  • Lightning
  • A combination of all of the above

Benefits include identifying areas of potential weakness and the most likely geographical location of outages. This foresight allows operations teams to quickly request mutual assistance an be optimally positioned for fast response resulting in reduced outage time.

Other benefits of the Storm Impact Analytics application include:

  • The ability to make better strategic decisions regarding staffing
  • Reduced utilities downtimes
  • Increased opportunities for customer support
  • The capacity to fulfill reporting demands to the satisfaction of company executives and government officials
  • The application provides key insights into the resiliency of your infrastructure

Having access to sophisticated weather data allows you to streamline your operational plans and have a clear response strategy prepared ahead of time. It also allows your company to prepare for and rapidly adjust to the changes in supply and demand as they are affected by weather changes.

Potential money savings through mitigation of asset damage, whether through carefully planned vegetation management or other means, cannot be overstated. Some restoration operations after the fact have run into millions of dollars.

There is also the question of safety; having superior weather data integrated with your asset data will allow you to avoid sending workers into hazardous situations.

As Electric Energy’s online magazine concludes, in an article entitled “The Bigger Picture | WEATHER FORECASTING AND DATA USAGES,” “companies need to be focusing resources on ensuring they receive detailed forecasts of weather elements…so good decisions can be based on good data.”

Storm Impact Analytics allows you to realize all the benefits discussed in this article with sophisticated, quantified outage predictions for your unique operations.