Why are some utilities having difficulty getting accurate outage information out of their new systems and, thus, hampering effective communication with customers on restoration time? We examine both system conversion and scale.
Several trends and missed opportunities may have conspired to overwhelm utility responses to outages in an era of grid modernization, hampering their ability to give customers good restoration estimates, even when they seemingly have the means to do so.
This is important in and of itself because utilities naturally seek to please their customers, not aggravate them, and just as importantly because utilities have to track traditional metrics that measure the frequency and duration of outages to meet regulators' demands. At its extreme, a poor track record in managing outages and related expectations may dampen investor enthusiasm for a particular utility. Not good.
Further, as we noted in yesterday's column—"Is Saving Money the Right Smart Grid Pitch? "—selling smarter grids by claiming that interval meters and advanced metering infrastructure will help customers "save money" and produce "shrinking bills" has been accompanied by claims that millions and billions of customer dollars should be invested to increase reliability and shorten outages.
In both cases, those outcomes are possible, but in many cases, not yet attainable. Another way of stating the matter is that hype has outrun reality and the power industry's credibility with customers and regulators—those who pay for improvements and those who approve of cost recovery—is at stake.
We'll feature some thought leadership in tomorrow's column around the subject of why outage management systems with a customer focus may not yield the promised results, coming from an operations person with long experience who has specific ideas on the hurdles to better performance by outage management systems (OMS) and the systems that OMS interact with.