Utilities, here’s how to stop outages (thank you, GE)


On the back of last week’s GE Digital Energy’s Grid Resiliency Survey, measuring the US public’s perception of the power grid, the US conglomerate has compiled tips for utilities to follow before, during and after an outage to align them with “21st-century consumer needs and avoid future occurrences”, the company said.

5 tips for utilities to keep the lights on

1. Anticipate & communicate

According to GE’s Grid Resiliency Survey, more than 50% of utility bill payers who experienced an outage in the past 12 months with their current provider did not receive communication from their provider about the outage. Utilities should not only develop risk profiles to anticipate outages, but take the necessary steps to notify customers of these anticipated risks. Doing so allows utilities to create a two-way dialogue with consumers. As survey results indicate, communication with consumers should also extend beyond traditional modes such as land-line phones and include digital options, including smartphones, email, text messages and social media.

2. Sense

Utilities should invest in and integrate the five core components of the modern grid – smart meters and an automated metering infrastructure (AMI), geographic information system (GIS), outage management system (OMS), distributed management system (DMS), and distribution automation (DA) capabilities – to “triangulate” the cause of the outage and quickly restore power.

3. Integrate to the edge

Every second counts during restoration. Modern grid technology such as smart meter communications, in tandem with AMI’s two-way communications system, can quickly identify outages and restore electricity. When power is lost, these meters have stored enough energy to send a final, “last gasp” communication to the utility alerting them of the outage and its location. Pinpointing the exact location of an outage will help crews to restore power quickly and reduce downtime.

4. Prepare

Repair and reconfiguration scenarios should be anticipated. Provisions for supporting and communicating with crews familiar with the system and crews from other utilities will expedite the restoration and increase the safety. Before and after an outage, damage assessment and restoration teams should work closely to document major damage and prioritize the deployment of work crews.

5. Monitor

In our current society of real-time news and data, utilities need to closely monitor and report on the restoration process. Investing in software capabilities that receive and analyze data minute-by-minute during the restoration process will give utilities important reports that they can communicate to stakeholders both during and after an outage.