$15 billion investment helps PG&E sustain 2016 grid reliance

US utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) said it sustained the reliability of its grid system in 2016 largely due to its investments in smart grid technologies.

Pat Hogan, senior vice president of Operations at PG&E, said the company’s $15 billion smart grid investment made over the last five years to upgrade the utility’s transmission and distribution infrastructure helped in enhancing the resiliency of the grid system.

In a press statement, PG&E said in 2016, its average customer experienced one outage during the year.

“The average duration of power outages for a PG&E customer was 109 minutes. That was up slightly from 96 minutes in 2015, but still represented the second-lowest total in history and reflects a 35 percent improvement over the past decade,” states the company statement.

The utility claims that the increase in the duration of power outages in 2016 from the 2015 level was due to the impact of the El Nino cyclone.

PG&E smart grid investment

PG&E used the $15 billion investment to install advanced smart grid communications and control technologies on more than 25% of its distribution network to quickly identify the occurrence of power outages and to allow automatic restoration of services in affected networks.

The utility claims that its smart grid infrastructure has helped to avoid more than 160 million customer outage minutes and save over 1.6 million customers from a sustained outage since 2012.

In addition to installing smart grid sensors and technologies, PG&E opened three electric distribution control systems in Rocklin, Fresno and Concord to improve management and control of its 140,000 miles of electricity distribution power lines supplying energy to some 16 million consumers in California.

The company’s Storm and Outage Prediction model has also helped in the utility’s ability to respond to power outages through the use of real-time weather forecasts, historic data and system knowledge to accurately show where and when storm impacts will be most severe.

Meanwhile, US utility Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) announced its plans to spend $359 million in upgrading its grid infrastructure to improve the reliability of its networks and reduce the occurrence and duration of power outages.

 JCP& L will use the $359 million smart grid investment to maintain, upgrade and expand its energy transmission and distribution system throughout 2017.

The $359 million smart grid investment falls under efforts by JCP&L to improve its customer services to some 1.1 million consumers in the company’s service territories in 13 counties in northern and central New Jersey.

JCP&L will install new communication technologies and devices such as transmission protective devices and circuit breakers within its grid network to improve remote-control capabilities of the energy distribution system. Read more…


Image credit: PG&E.

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.