The $306 Billion Question: How to make Outage Management Better?

In 2017, the economic toll of U.S. weather disasters was higher than any year on record—$306 billion dollars.

Weather-related impacts are at the top of all outage causes. Extreme weather can cause massive power outages from blown transformers and downed power lines and can stretch even the most prepared budgets and infrastructure. The devastating impacts of last year’s hurricane season, culminating in Maria’s damage to Puerto Rico’s power grid, serve as a reminder of the severity and magnitude of potential threats.

A Rhodium Group report found that no event in U.S. history has recorded so many people without power for as long as what has occurred in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Maria. On the list of top 10 largest blackouts in U.S. history, there is only one that is not caused by a hurricane. Hurricanes are the leading cause of power outages in the U.S. by a wide margin, according to the report.

The need for these utilities to work with the most accurate source of real-time weather forecasts and warnings cannot be overstated. It has been estimated that the annual cost of underpredicting or overpredicting electricity demand due to poor weather forecasts can amount to more than several hundred million dollars in the U.S. alone.

Utilities, energy traders and independent power producers need accurate information about past, present and future weather parameters to make the very best decisions leading to enhanced safety, reduced cost and liability and increased profitability. During extreme weather events, customers are most concerned with how quickly and effectively their service is restored, making accurate weather information and actionable insights paramount in enabling service providers to deliver better time of restoration, while also ensuring the safety of their teams. So how can highly specialized, custom weather intelligence help utilities, traders and power producers? By providing:

·         Custom extreme-weather pre-planning to optimize the asset deployment and allocations for severe weather, in concert with their regulator, to pre-establish appropriate levels of response, and to prepare specialized contractors for quick action.

·         Early anticipation of needs so requests can go to other utilities and adequate resources can be pre-arranged to match the magnitude of expected outages, enabling power to be restored quickly.

·         Detailed insights on expected impacts from an incoming storm, including when dangerous conditions are expected to start and cease on a location-by-location basis.

·         Specialized warnings for severe weather affecting sensitive regions or routes, and for specific sites, designed to facilitate the right decisions about the optimum deployment of crews, materials and equipment in a weather emergency.

·         Highly localized, real-time data for load forecasting, plus customized weather forecasts updating, minute by minute, on an hour-by-hour basis for 25 days, and on a day-by-day basis for up to two years.

·         Alerts for dangerous conditions that may continue even after the main storm impacts are over. For example, lightning risk in thunderstorms after a hurricane moves away. Crews can avoid being in harm’s way with proactive weather warnings communicated directly to those deployed in the field.

·         Custom assessments following a weather event to put outages into proper historical context, drawing upon the most accurate and comprehensive historical database available.

·         Specialized consulting services after severe weather, including an evaluation of the response to weather events, as well as expert testimony and analysis to support legal proceedings.

·         Superior weather forecasting combined with the most comprehensive historical weather databases can significantly enhance outage prediction and recovery by incorporating accurate weather data into the process.

With the most accurate weather knowledge and data, you can make more informed decisions on how to best prepare for extreme-weather events and outages, how to refine your plan based on details and actionable forecast insights, and most importantly how to ensure the safety of your staff. Additionally, being equipped with the data, expertise and insights to know what, why, how and when to communicate with customers before, during and after a storm is of crucial importance during an extreme-weather event. Customers want to feel that their power company is knowledgeable of potential power outages and working as quickly and efficiently as possible to restore their service.

Working more efficiently and minimizing the length and damage of outages will not only make your more profitable, but also provide improved time of restoration estimates and more importantly use actionable weather insights to have the best plan in place so that electricity is restored as quickly, effectively and as safely as possible.

About the author:  Jonathan Porter AccuWeather’s vice president of business services and general manager of Enterprise Solutions. In this key leadership role, Jon directs all aspects of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions’ continued global expansion across all industries, including retail, transportation, manufacturing, entertainment, financial, energy, emergency management, and many others. 


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