Outage management: winners and losers

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outage

Winners and losers this week - Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative reduces outage time, while CMP is under investigation for outage response.

Winner:

The Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative has reduced outage time by almost two-thirds since using the SurvalentONE SCADA and Outage Management Software (OMS) applications.

The not-for-profit, customer-owned electric utility serving residential and commercial customers throughout central Ohio started working with the provider of advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) to remotely monitor and operate devices across its 1300-mile network, allowing field crews to pinpoint and fix problems faster than before.

“In recent years, Mid-Ohio has been consistently recognised as one of the five utilities in the state with the lowest annual outage times,” said Mark Terrill, Director of Operations at Mid-Ohio. “Our System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) dropped from 128 minutes in 2009 to just 46 minutes in 2016, a 64% decrease.”

Mid-Ohio Energy has also earned an 87 rating on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), the utility’s highest-ever score on this important metric.

Terrill attributes Mid-Ohio’s success to a sharp increase in operational efficiency. Mid-Ohio Energy has integrated SurvalentONE OMS with its smart meter network, customer information system (CIS), and trouble call system (TCS), so customers can now report power outages and receive real-time status updates online or via an app on their mobile phone. The OMS automatically processes outage reports by customers and uses them to quickly determine the location and extent of each outage, speeding up service restoration.

Commenting on the successful implementation, Steve Mueller, CEO at Survalent, said: "We’re really proud that our platform has enabled Mid-Ohio to achieve such impressive SAIDI results. That, coupled with their record-setting score on the ACSI, is a strong validation of the investments they’ve made to improve network reliability.”

Loser:

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has voted to open an inquiry into responses by Central Maine Power Co (CMP). and Emera Maine to extensive power outages in October.

Both power companies are expected to file reports detailing their responses and lessons learned in 30 days.

It has been reported that the $200 million smart-grid communications network utilised by Central Maine Power failed, effectively leaving the utility blind, unable to tap into the nearly 600,000 smart meters installed across Maine to help remotely track outages and keep customers in the loop about expected restoration times.

According to John Carroll, spokesman at CMP, the meters were operating properly during the initial stages of the Sunday, 29 October storm, escalating to some 400,000 customers without electricity.
However, then "... it just sort of flatlined. It stopped climbing and it was pretty clear we weren’t getting any more information from it.”
As utility poles were destroyed, power lines and radio tranmitters for the wireless mesh network were destroyed with the result that the meters themselves lost power, eventually draining back up power too.

By Tuesday the network’s performance was down by more than half.

“We were blind in a way we hadn’t been in a very long time, and in a way we hadn’t experienced. So we don’t really see it in any way as a failure of the system. It’s certainly a learning, something we recognised. We’d never seen it crash before,” Carroll said.

However, says CMP CEO Sara Burns, “having 405,000 smart meters not talking to us when they had no power doesn’t change how we manage the storm.”
According to Burns the smart-meter system has proven a valuable tool in managing the response to smaller outages. However, during this particular time, the company relied on traditional tools to assess damage and prioritise the response: calls from customers, automated calls to customers, staff field reports and meter checks. As repairs were undertaken, and lines re-energised the smart-meter network started to come back online. By Nov. 5, CMP says its advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) was 95% functional. All in all, some customers were without power for 10 days.

CMP’s critics are not ready to dismiss the vulnerabilities the storm revealed.

“Well this was a colossal system failure,” said state Rep. Seth Berry, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

“It was a total and, until now, unrevealed failure of a system that CMP used to increase profits to its foreign shareholders and to lay off line workers and meter readers. Importantly, it was costly to ratepayers because just like we paid for AMI in the first place with interest, Maine residents and businesses are on the hook for the vast majority of the cleanup costs, with interest.”

The smart-meter system’s non-performance, and whether that took staff away from other critical tasks, will be scrutinised, Berry said, along with the effectiveness of the utilities’ tree-trimming programmes and other damage management initiatives.

Emera Maine said it’s not uncommon for regulators, lawmakers and officials to conduct reviews of the largest events to ensure things were done properly.  “As the frequency of severe weather has increased, utilities have gotten better at responding to major events,” said Judy Long, an Emera Maine spokeswoman. “Not only does Emera Maine plan for storms and pre-stage crews to respond as appropriate, we also conduct post-event reviews to identify any lessons learned.”