This article was first published in Energy Central.
Last month at the DistribuTECH Conference, I spoke alongside executives from AES Corp, Florida Power & Light, CenterPoint Energy and AEP Texas on how the grid responded to the 2017 Hurricane season.
Considered one of the most challenging hurricane seasons ever, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season brought unprecedented accumulated cyclone energy and the highest number of storms since 2005. The impacts of Harvey, Irma, and Maria affected different regions, but echoed similar devastations: many lives lost, millions without power, and substations and T&D lines down for hundreds of square miles.
During the panel discussion, the group discussed major themes, including grid modernization; vegetation management including the removal and replacement of trees; customer communications; and the expanded use of drones working to ensure the best resources are in place to capture correct, helpful data.
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As we look towards the 2018 storm season, it is important to note that the much of the transmission and distribution infrastructure in the U.S. is more than a hundred years old. This creates a great challenge for utilities, many of which are seeing their assets further strained by the mechanical stress of major storm events that exceed originally designed standards. Aging infrastructure, severe weather patterns, and higher distribution grid complexity is applying pressure to existing infrastructure.
However, we know that utilities are actively hardening their systems against damage to prevent and decrease the number and duration of power outages. Utilities are also working to better communicate with their customers and regulators through social media channels Twitter and Facebook.
In the next year, reliability and resiliency will continue to be essential, and utilities will continue to be innovative in their communication tools to best serve customers.
Gregg Edeson is an energy and utilities expert at PA Consulting Group