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How Lateral Protection Can Help Meet Regulatory Demands

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Chris Watts's picture
Director - Regulatory Affairs, S&C Electric Company

Director - Regulatory Affairs at S&C Electric Company Specialties: Price control expert with 22 years experience in the industry, Network Regulation, Incentive Design, Economic Analysis...

  • Member since 2022
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  • Oct 25, 2022

This item is part of the The Grid: Reliability & Resilience - October 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Power reliability is paramount to how our society operates today. Whether writing an email or streaming the latest movie hit, our digital society is increasingly dependent on consistent and constant power delivery—no matter where customers are located on the grid.

As people’s daily lives have changed, so have their expectations around reliability. But for most households, reliability has not improved as quickly as needed. In the U.S., System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) worsened at a rate of approximately 2.2 minutes every year between 2013 and 2020, a total increase of 19 percent over the period.

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With people spending more time at home, power is increasingly being consumed at the grid edge versus centralized use in commercial zones. This change magnifies reliability gaps within the distribution system, and customers are demanding change.

In response, regulators are placing a greater focus on customer-centric metrics to meet these rising expectations. One metric gaining steam is Customers Experiencing Multiple Interruptions (CEMI) because it paints a more complete picture of system performance and tracks households with the worst experiences.

Countries like Australia, England, Canada, and others track CEMI in some capacity. And nearly two-dozen U.S. states do as well, a 57 percent increase from 2018. Regulators recognize that developing customer-centric metrics requires additional monitoring and data collection compared to traditional metrics. By incentivizing utilities to track these figures and use them to play a greater role in rate case submissions, regulators can support utilities to serve their customers better.

Utilities can meet these growing demands for improvements from regulators and customers by investing in end-to-end lateral protection. Over the past decades, feeders received significant investments because they serve a greater number of customers.

As feeders improved, laterals did not keep pace despite new technology upgrades. And with 80 percent of overhead faults occurring on these lines, further upgrades will have a positive impact on a utility’s bottom line, reliability metrics, and overall customer satisfaction.

The good news for utilities is that proven technology already exists that can satisfy regulators and customers. Lateral fault-testing devices can be deployed throughout the grid and ensure that every household experiences greater reliability.

They achieve this by testing whether faults are temporary in nature and automatically restoring power if they are—eliminating unnecessary sustained outages and increasing reliability scores. These devices are also configurable and fit into existing protection settings, enabling grid segmentation to keep the power on for more customers when permanent outages occur.

With a changing world comes an excellent opportunity to modernize the grid and develop new ways to measure success. Advanced lateral protection solutions are available today to transform reliability at the grid edge and improve the overall customer experience.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 26, 2022

With a changing world comes an excellent opportunity to modernize the grid and develop new ways to measure success. 

This is a key point to remember. When upgrades are needed or even new infrastructure is being built, that's the time to go all in and really make the use of those efforts. Doing upgrades piecemeal because of hesitance towards investment will just add to the costs over time. 

Chris Watts's picture
Thank Chris for the Post!
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