By Matt Nauman
PG&E delivered record electric reliability in 2015 with the average customer experiencing less than one outage during the year. PG&E’s sizable investment in its electric infrastructure and its commitment to integrating innovative technology continues to pay dividends for its customers.
2015 marked the seventh consecutive year of improved reliability. Since 2009, the utility has consistently reduced the average duration of power outages from 158 minutes to 96 minutes, a 39 percent improvement.
“We know how important it is for our customers — and California’s economy — to have reliable electric service they can count on day in and day out,” said Geisha Williams, president, PG&E Electric. “The investments we’re making in a 21st century power grid and the hard work of our employees have allowed us to make real gains on reliability over the years. But we know our work isn’t done, and we’re committed to doing even more to make our power grid smarter and more resilient for the long term.”
What’s behind record reliability in 2015?
PG&E continues to integrate a wide range of advanced communications and control technologies throughout its power grid to enhance the resiliency of the system and to identify and restore power outages more quickly. In the last five years, PG&E has invested more than $11 billion dollars to enhance and harden its electric transmission and distribution system assets.
Some highlights of the technology that has boosted reliability include:
New distribution control centers
Since 2014, PG&E has opened three state-of-the-art electric distribution control centers that manage more than 140,000 miles of electric distribution power lines throughout Northern and Central California. The latest opened in Rocklin in Placer County earlier this year. These facilities are the nerve centers of the power grid that delivers energy to the homes and businesses of more than 16 million Californians. Located in Fresno and Concord in addition to Rocklin, the centers already are enhancing electric reliability for PG&E customers while incorporating clean, renewable energy onto the grid.
PG&E is also installing advanced automated technology on power lines throughout its service area. This technology can automatically “self-heal” the power grid by re-routing the flow of electricity around a damaged power line and effectively restore power to the majority of impacted customers within minutes. These systems have been installed on more than 20 percent of PG&E’s electrical distribution circuits, helping the company avoid more than 100 million customer outage minutes and saving more than one million customers from a sustained outage since the program began in 2012. Other advances, including line sensors that help pinpoint the specific location of an outage, continue to be integrated into the system.
SmartMeters play an important role in PG&E’s response to power outages. The utility receives SmartMeter data within seconds of an outage to help employees quickly determine the scope and level of response needed. SmartMeter data also helps identify the location of an outage to reduce the amount of time it takes for restoration crews to arrive on scene.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.