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Electrical Power Outage Management

Electricity, Electric Equipment, Transformer Insulator

Electricity power outages result from weather conditions, intentional or accidental damage to distribution lines and poles, and transmission line and generator impairments. Managing an electrical power outage correctly is critical to the restoration and recovery of fully functioning power systems. The key elements from both the utility providers point of view and the customers service end in successfully managing an electrical power outage are: 1) communication; 2) resource distribution; and 3) recovery system responsiveness.

Communication during an electrical power outage traditionally requires customer phone or wireless communication with utilities to provide feedback information (Avaya, 2012). With the implementation of "smart systems", customer communication has extended to transmission of data and reporting capabilities of in home or business individual energy systems. The need for utilities to route communications effectively is no longer as crucial as providing up-to-the-minute status data to the customer. This need can be met most efficiently through non-personnel essential channels- such as VoIP and automated texts integrated with property energy system monitor displays. Wide spread power outage customer communications still benefit from public relations announcements and system warning alerts that use sounding alarms.

Resource distribution during a power outage must be carefully managed through utility source points. Self-healing smart grids "work(s) by isolating the area where the impact of a power outage is the smallest and, ideally, restoring power to those customers almost immediately. Then, smart meters pinpoint those customers who remain without power so that the utility's control center can send a crew out to fix the cause." (Anderson, J. August 25, 2012) Line Outage Distribution Factors (LODFs) are used to measure how a change in a power line's status impacts the system flow to other power lines. Priority in repairs can be based on LODFs to re-establish the heaviest conducting assets first to bring more power on-line than spot repairs without an LODF assessment.

Recovery system responsiveness is measured by ramp rates, reserve requirements, and voltage distribution control. Generator ramp rates can be subject to restrictions depending upon the equipment. Immediate reserves are necessary for generators to function adequately and most generators must run below full capacity. This impacts system responsiveness to power outage repairs through lag time responses in functionality when generators are "off-line". Many utilities offset this lag time through establishing a system that holds a "spinning reserve" to maintain frequency responsiveness (ESA, 2014). Voltage distribution control is another concern when re-establishing system performance after a power outage. Power surges can be minimized through the use of surge protection devices (SPDs) and bringing the energy load online in some sort of sequential or timed equipment order, rather than fully utilizing all available power to "turn on" everything at once. This holds true for both the utilities' power systems and consumers' in home or business electrical equipment.

Reducing outages is the optimum solution for power outage management. On the other hand, correctly managing power outages through communication, resource distribution, and recovery system responsiveness can alleviate the problems that occur when power outages cannot be prevented.

1. "Effectively Managing Communications with Customers During a Service Outage" (Avaya Inc, 2012).

2. "Smart Systems Protect Power Grids and Handle Extreme Weather" (Breaking Energy; Anderson, J, April 25, 2012).

3. "Spinning Reserve" (ESA, 2014).

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