By Don Reeves
No matter the time of the year, utilities must be prepared for inclement weather. With real-time insights, a two-way, smart grid network automates key processes including locating and rerouting power around trouble spots, reducing unnecessary truck rolls and saving costs, and most importantly, getting the power back on quickly for utility customers.
Silver Spring customer Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) was put to the test last week when a large winter storm hit the San Francisco Bay Area. PG&E was an early adopter of smart grid technology, having rolled out the Silver Spring multi-application IPv6 network for its SmartMeterTM program to more than five million customers starting in 2008.
In the most recent storm, around half a million PG&E customers in the Bay Area were impacted, with wind gusts reported up to 95 mph in higher elevations and several inches of rainfall in many areas. According to the utility “of the 500,000 customers who lost service during the storm, more than 95 percent saw their power restored in less than 48 hours..” In an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, PG&E credited its smart grid program as “very helpful in getting service restored quickly,” with the utility being able to identify an outage location and scope in as little as 3-5 minutes. Of equal importance, PG&E noted on its blog that it was able to use its smart grid to verify power restoration and to detect embedded outages.
This is not the first time in 2014 that PG&E has realized great benefits in outage restoration as a result of its smart grid technology. And it may not be the last. As we approach the peak of the winter season, we encourage all utilities to leverage the experiences of their peers in using the smart grid to automate and accelerate outage detection and restoration efforts through a unified, multi-application network platform.