November 15, 2012
After the US east coast suffered through the worst storm in history, storm response is on everyone's mind. So how can utilities prepare and plan for the unpredictable? According to
Jeff Lewis, expert in electric utility reliability at PA Consulting Group
successful storm response is managed through "a combination of people, organization, process and technology."
How did the utilities do after Hurricane Sandy?
"According to our analysis of Hurricane Sandy, 5 of 10 utilities across the Tri-State area restored power to over 90% of their customers within seven days, whereas after Hurricane Irene all 10 utilities had restored at least 90% of customers within a week. This demonstrates the tremendous power and impact of Superstorm Sandy, which affected approximately seven million customers in the Tri-State area, compared to Irene which affected nearly four million," said Mr. Lewis.
Given the duration of this major event, Mr. Lewis added, "Customers, regulators and public officials are focused on the estimated time to restoration (ETR), which is when a customer can expect to have power. This is the single most important piece of information a utility can provide under these circumstances. For Hurricane Sandy, we observed eight out of 10 utilities achieved their respective system-wide ETR. Most utilities waited until three days after the storm before issuing an ETR so they could assess the damage. Still, many utilities were criticized for not providing accurate ETRs at the local level. With temperatures dipping below freezing, customers want to know exactly when their power will be restored". The pressure on utilities reached a climax when
Governor Cuomo threatened to revoke the licenses of those utilities that failed to deliver.
For utilities, being strategic in the preparation and planning for major storms improves restoration times, minimizes risks to public safety, and enhances public perception of the utility, as the extreme weather impacts from Hurricanes Sandy and Irene over the past two years have shown.