3 ways data can help utility companies cope with extreme weather events and outages

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Supratik Chaudhary is the Director of Utilities at Digital Consultancy Publications Sepiant, North America.,

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the February 2021 Deep Freeze in Texas, in which more than 700 people are said to have died as a result of a power outage, US utility companies are still unprepared for the next extreme weather event.

In fact, in response to our most recent survey, only 1% of U.S. Utility companies have said they are fully prepared to make an accurate prediction of when power will be restored following a weather-related outage, which Texas hurricane made clear: the inability to use data could have fatal consequences for insights. The problem is much bigger than the hurricane in Texas: Across the country, power outages have increased by 60% in the last five years, emphasizing the growing need for more efficient outage responses, enabling both utility companies and consumers to plan how to deal. Makes. With outage, saving both life and money.

To meet the obligation to provide essential electricity services reliably, utility companies need to adopt new technologies and new ways of working to transform operations. Extreme weather events are set to increase, and the required shift in renewable energy will add additional instability to the power supply. Given the variability in weather and power supply, but data-driven insights can help ensure that reliable power supply is stable for consumers.

To gain insights that can reduce the impact of a blackout, and to help predict when it will happen and how long it will last, utility companies can take the following three steps:

1. Using data to predict future demand and supply for utility companies

It has long been known that due to very hot or very cold weather consumers consume more power, cooling or heating their home. But predictions of how much the load will increase often rely on historical data. Instead it should include real-time data as well as extrapolated data for future scenarios such as demographic changes, growth in electrification, renewal and adoption of microgrids which may increase demand. This allows companies to model the future and plan risk mitigation strategies. For example, when thousands of EVs start charging, there is likely to be more demand on the grid in rich dense suburban neighborhoods in the future. However, growth in EVs often sees a correlation in rooftop solar, which may reduce some demand. Knowing what all future scenarios might look like and stress-testing for conditions such as extreme weather events will be an important part of a risk assessment.

Just as important as understanding demand is the ability to understand and predict supply with real-time and projected data. For example, utilities need to consider the retirement of fossil generation plants and nuclear plants, the growth of renewable and storage, future prices of natural gas and other parameters. These supply forecasts also need to be stress-tested for reconstructive levels of recoverable substances, health of aged area property, climate risk and more extreme scenarios where tightening of certain inputs can have cascading effects, which was observed with natural. Gas supply during a Texas hurricane. To make this possible, companies need to adopt forecasting platforms that integrate real-time data about both demand and supply from many third-party sources,

Using data to predict and manage supply will become more important as utilities will turn to renewable equipment such as solar and wind. While storage solutions are set to improve for these renewable energy sources, they remain expensive, making the transition to another source of volatility in the power supply renewable, especially as weather patterns are becoming more extreme. That’s why 82% of utility companies, according to our survey, see the transition to clean energy as a significant challenge when it comes to maintaining service. This underscores the need to incorporate better energy-specific data analysis to ensure that the future energy environment can be flexible and stable at the same time.

2. Create a dashboard or platform to rule it all out

Use of customer data for outage feedback is minimal. Our recent survey found that only 2% of responding U.S. utility companies were fully prepared to collect and analyze data from customers such as outages, fallen trees, and damaged power lines in the wake of a severe weather event.

Ideally, utility companies should incorporate such customer data into a single platform with grid and other data, offering a single dashboard view that takes into account all these factors. Unfortunately, utilities struggle with numerous IT and OT (operational technology) systems for sealed groups of users. Many utilities struggle to develop enterprise-wide data management programs because the focus is limited by specific usage cases and not around what is needed to drive overall customer-centric results. In addition, utilities often overestimate their investment in technology but fail to note that people and processes are often the biggest obstacles to successful adoption of new technology. It is important to invest in a strong change management process.

A standalone data platform that integrates and curates data from different systems that allows only a single dashboard view of the grid position, enabling customized views that different business groups can use for their own efforts to improve the overall situation. Contributes. For example, Australian power company Ausgrid recently incorporated customer, grid, weather and other supply and demand forecast data into one platform, significantly shortening the power restoration timeline, in part because of the insights from the data to allow utility companies to bring in enough staff ahead of time. Giving. To cope with the outage quickly. EPCOR Utilities in Canada has seen a similar decline in power recovery timelines, having recently switched to an integrated single-view platform that takes into account customer data, including outages reported by customers.

Companies also need to be prudent in the way they communicate with customers in order to change consumer behavior. Instead of talking about specific terms like kWh, utilities need to talk in terms of dollars and cents that consumers are more likely to understand. In addition, consumers of different demographics respond differently to the message of reducing power consumption. Running multivariate experiments around personalized communications that take into account demographic, preferred communication channels (web, text, apps), time of day, and more can have a major impact on consumers’ power consumption, as our work with the Ontario Energy Board has shown. . .

Another frequently missed opportunity for utility is post-event engagement with customers to understand how they could have done better. Sometimes customers who call about an outage are looking for more than just recovery time, they may try to find out about nearby storm shelter or access to water, food and other necessities, and find out how utilities they can. Eliminate such difficulties.

Clearly, as has traditionally been the case, utility companies need to relate to customers as customers who not only need personal service, but can contribute to improvements and further changes and innovation, rather than just relating to customers as rate-pairs. Can push. This can help reduce demand at peak times and provide customers with convenient ways to communicate with the utility, providing real-time reports when outages, fallen trees and other problems arise.

3. Modernization of the grid

Upgrading the grid through harder assets, more sophisticated sensors and advanced OT systems as well as innovations such as distributed energy production, microgrids and P2P power sharing provides the foundation for future smart cities that can accommodate increased electrification needs (e.g.

The challenges that utilities face are not going away: the extreme weather is here to stay. And electricity generation makes up 30% of U.S. carbon emissions, contributing to the occurrence of climate change that accelerates extreme weather, with no option but to move to renewable energy. At the human level, too, the stakes are rising: A recent study found that two-thirds of residents in cities like Atlanta, Detroit and Phoenix are at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke if the power goes out for a long time. During the summer.

It is reaching out to utility companies to prevent such disasters and casualties. And to do that, they need to start with digital and data transformation, at least, where, when and what power assets will come out and for how long, but, ideally, better predictions to prevent outages in the first place. . . Ultimately, utilities will be able to change the way people use this data – and think about it – for energy.

Supratik Chaudhary is the Director of Utilities at Public Sapphire, North America.,


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