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Can Mapping Solutions Improve Grid Availability?

Downtime is a no-no for energy suppliers. One challenge is ensuring that their services remain operational during natural and manmade disasters, such as hurricanes and wildfires.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) developed the Energy Disruptions Map to illustrate what impact such events may have on energy infrastructure, such as high-voltage transmission lines, power plants, and petroleum bulk terminals. With that information, utilities gain more insight into customer needs.

Utilities have often been a few steps behind when reacting to natural and manmade disasters. One reason is they often lack up to date information about the events. Information about these events was often stored in one autonomous system.  They often focus on their physical infrastructure, devices used to generate and carry electricity from the source to the customer. This information was housed in a separate system.

The EIA application marries the two systems. With it, utilities gain a visual that overlays disaster paths to their physical infrastructure. In addition, the agency tied its key production, consumption, and operational status information on its website to the solution. The agency collects hourly electric load data for each of the 64 active balancing authorities in the Lower 48 states and publishes these data in the US Hourly Electric Grid Monitor. As a result, the effects of tropical storms, hurricanes, and wildfires on electric load become apparent. In September 2017, widespread outages following the landfall of Hurricane Irma resulted in electricity demand in Florida falling to 74% below its typical levels. So, utilities have more insight into their needs during a disaster.

One challenge is the EIA system relies on utilities to input updated energy demand and usage data into the system. That step may be difficult as the disaster rages.

How much interest would your company have in this application? What do you see as its potential and its challenges?

Paul Korzeniowski's picture

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