Boston Edison boosts outage management

Jessie Theodore


As deregulation sweeps over the electric power industry, a utility`s ability to quickly restore power is at a greater premium than ever. Boston Edison Co., a 1.6 billion energy and telecommunications company, has built an information system, the trouble information mapper (TIMAPPER), that dramatically improved its restoration response time during emergencies.

“Our system enables employees to gather all the information needed to restore power in a fast and efficient manner, display it in the context of a map, then dispatch that information to field crews,” said Dick Cohane, Boston Edison geographic information systems (GIS) project manager.

Formed in 1886, Boston Edison has collected vast amounts of information on its facility infrastructure using manual, paper-based methods. Data include more than 70,000 hand-drawn maps and thousands of additional paper documents covering the utility`s 600-square-mile distribution network. While the data were highly accurate and useful, they were stored independently. In a time-critical situation such as a power outage, gathering information for analysis was difficult. You need more than just accurate, detailed information on your assets and customers,” Cohane said. “You need to be able to get information fast, and you need to be able to deploy it to field crews.”

In 1993, the utility began developing a large, distributed information system that would integrate business process and data together data into one central repository. This system was the Computer-Aided Distribution Information Management and Graphics Editor (CADIMAGE). With data tied together from work management, distribution, engineering, design and asset management, Boston Edison quickly began developing new applications, including service restoration.

As part of CADIMAGE, Boston Edison developed TIMAPPER, designed to give Boston Edison a better method for combating power outages by using digital mapping and spatial analysis tools. It was built using GIS digital mapping tools integrated with relational database management system (RDBMS) software.

For the GIS software, Boston Edison uses ARC/INFO GIS software and spatial database engine software from ESRI, Redlands, Calif. For its RDBMS software, the company uses the Oracle7 RDBMS software from Oracle.

TIMAPPER can access and graphically display any digital map and attribute data on all of Boston Edison`s 650,000 customers down to the customer meter drop. Infrastructure data include town boundaries, hydrology, 3,500 municipal assessor grids, 5,000 street centerlines, 14,500 miles of overhead wire, 7,500 miles of underground cable, 58,000 transformers, 35,000 switches 100,000 streetlights and more.

The process

A call comes into one of Boston Edison`s five regional customer service centers reporting a power outage. Customer service representatives take down information, then enter it into the trouble information management system. Data from this system are automatically downloaded by engineers who can display line damage and service calls geographically. It provides analysis and display of primary devices, customers out, KVA out and more. Users can pan and zoom through the digital maps to view a specific area needed; overlay map data on top of each other; such as customer locations and transmission lines; and perform spatial queries.

Once the affected infrastructure is identified, engineers create a digital map showing the locations of assets that need to be replaced, customers affected and any other data. Dispatchers can then print maps and data and provide them to field crews. Once service restoration is achieved, data are updated in the system within days, compared to months it took to do manually.

Inquire R.S. 101

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