By Matt Nauman
PG&E delivered excellent electric reliability in 2016 with the average customer experiencing one outage during the year. PG&E’s sizable investment in its electric infrastructure and its robust commitment to integrating innovative technology continues to pay dividends for its customers.
In 2016, the average duration of power outages for a PG&E customer was 109 minutes. That was up slightly from 96 minutes in 2015, but still represented the second-lowest total in history and reflects a 35 percent improvement over the past decade.
The slight decline in year-over-year reliability can mostly be attributed to stormy El Nino weather early in the year.
“It’s our job to provide safe and reliable power to our customers, and I’m proud to say that that is exactly what the men and women of PG&E delivered in 2016. The hard work of our employees coupled with the investments we continue to make to create a smarter, more reliable grid benefit all of us,” said Pat Hogan, senior vice president, PG&E Electric Operations.
What’s behind the solid electric reliability performance in 2016? The integration of advanced communications and control technologies throughout the electric grid continues to enhance the resiliency of the system and helps identify and restore power outages more quickly.
In the last five years, PG&E has invested $15 billion to enhance and harden its electric transmission and distribution system assets. A wide range of factors, from the operation of new distribution control centers to the building of a smarter energy infrastructure to advances in forecasting and emergency planning, all contributed to reliability progress.
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 third of these — in Rocklin in Placer County — opened in 2016. These facilities are the nerve centers of the grid that delivers energy to the homes and businesses of more than 16 million Californians. The Rocklin, Fresno and Concord centers have enhanced electric reliability for PG&E customers while incorporating clean, renewable energy into the grid.
PG&E continues to install advanced automated technology on power lines throughout its service area. This technology can automatically “self-heal” the 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 25 percent of PG&E’s electrical distribution circuits, helping the company avoid more than 160 million customer outage minutes and saving more than 1.6 million customers from a sustained outage since the program began in 2012. Other advances, such as line sensors that help pinpoint the specific location of an outage, continue to be integrated into the system.
PG&E’s meteorology team has developed a Storm Outage Prediction Model that incorporates real-time weather forecasts, historic data and system knowledge to accurately show where and when storm impacts will be most severe. This model enables the company to pre-stage crews and equipment as storms approach to enable rapid response to outages.
Email Currents at Currents@pge.com.