How to improve power outage prediction and response

By | 3 minute read | January 29, 2019

Utility maintenance technician

The European utility industry is seeing higher demand for energy — more so now than ever — and with that comes an unforgiving expectation for uninterrupted power. The aging external infrastructure is more vulnerable when faced with severe weather. This can lead to compounding problems if a proper plan isn’t in place.

When severe weather strikes, it is your responsibility to maintain the infrastructure, ensuring power is restored as quickly as possible following an outage. When it doesn’t go right, the effects can range from tarnished corporate image to hefty regulatory fines. When it comes to the execution, we know there is room for improvement.

Preparing for Outages

Preparation starts days before severe weather hits — reviewing weather forecasts; planning; securing internal resources and mutual aid; communicating with the media, the government and the general public, etc. — and it should not be an ad-hoc process.

Reviewing forecasts on a case-by-case basis, identifying where your utility team’s strengths and weaknesses are, prioritizing pain points and determining the order in which your team should respond — all these will help you eliminate the threat of outages before they become a reality.

Strong communication can ease the tension that outages create. By leveraging weather alerts and keeping all that are impacted in the loop, you boost satisfaction, limit unwanted surprises, and relieve outage-related stress of your customers and field workers.

Responding to Outages

And just like we cannot control the weather, we cannot prevent outages — oh, how we wish we could! What we can do is control our level of preparedness.

On 17th January 2018, an unnamed storm caused widespread disruption across the U.K. The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a warning in anticipation of strong winds, but the storm packed a bigger punch than expected, particularly across the East Midlands and East Anglia. With it came gusts up to 71 mph/114 kph inland, resulting in power outages to over 130,000 households in East Anglia. The NWS received backlash for its underwhelming warnings, as many felt the NWS didn’t effectively communicate the potential impacts to affected citizens.

That’s the problem: Like citizens, distribution network operators (DNOs) rely on warnings to make decisions. Erroneous levels of mobilizations in the wrong areas, unnecessary expenditure of resources, and slow restoration times are all devastating mistakes. We feel an objective approach should be taken to minimize these consequences.

There are two less-than-ideal scenarios that utility companies like yours often find themselves in:

  1. You over-prepare with too many workers out in the field, resulting in unnecessary costs.
  2. Weather events can be worse than forecasted, with the element of surprise leaving you underprepared.

As a result, slower restoration times are more frequent, you have unhappy customers on your hands, and operational efficiency can plummet overall.

Leveraging Weather Solutions For Your Advantage

Now, imagine a time where you are able to:

  • Ensure the correct level of mobilization >80% of the time.
  • Save your company millions of pounds.
  • Reduce restoration times.
  • Increase customer satisfaction.
  • Prioritize worker safety.
  • Cultivate healthy brand recognition.

At The Weather Company, we strive to make mobilization easier and more efficient for DNOs responding to severe weather threats. With proper planning and preparation using accurate weather data and analysis, you can do all of the above.

The implementation of an outage prediction solution into your decision-making process is a no-brainer.

The Weather Company’s Outage Prediction streamlines the decision-making process around deploying field teams with the right skill sets to precise locations at optimal times, resulting in faster restoration times, lower costs, and happier customers.

Rather than relying on a single local weather forecast, the model leverages The Weather Company’s Forecast On Demand (FOD) system. Impressively, FOD draws on 162 global weather model inputs (a number that will soon increase to over 200) and data from over 270,000 weather stations around the globe — that’s data that will enable forecasts of likelihood outages down to the neighborhood level.

By maintaining an effective decision-making process, you solve problems before they happen. Field workers have one of the most dangerous jobs; thus, removing the severe weather component allows them one less thing to worry about whilst carrying out their duties. Combining Weather Alerts with the Operations Dashboard will ensure safety while offering complete transparency of potential severe weather hazards in the vicinity.

Learn more about The Weather Company solutions here.