Expectations of Outage Management System Capabilities is Growing

The standalone outage management system is being challenged by the development of advanced distribution management systems.
Published: Thu 15 Jan 2015

Global spending on outage management systems (OMS) is predicted to escalate from US$929.4 million annually in 2014 to US$1.3 billion in 2023, according to a report from Navigant Research.

A more sophisticated Outage Management System

Utility IT infrastructures across the world are being transformed by the introduction of smart grid technologies, particularly the integration of large quantities of data from smart meters and increased distributed grid monitoring and intelligence.

The increase in data, the growing complexity and sophistication of smart grid IT, and significant advances in big data analytics all require the development of new OMSs that are more complex and robust than systems in the past.

“The overall purpose and function of an OMS have not changed significantly over the years, but the demands on these systems have increased dramatically,” says Lauren Callaway, research analyst with Navigant Research. “Today’s OMSs need to be able to handle and process more data, realize greater efficiencies in the detection and restoration of power, and increase the predictive/preventive nature of outage responses.”

Outage management systems are benefitting from advances in IT and stronger grid awareness from smart grid technologies, according to the report, but as standalone systems, they are being challenged by the development of advanced distribution management systems (ADMSs).

Advanced distribution management systems gaining interest

ADMSs have yet to be widely deployed. Their high cost and the need for organizational alterations are mostly to blame for this. Despite this, ADMSs are seeing increasing interest and adoption, given their potential to improve information, simplify utility operations, and maximize efficiency.

The primary drivers for utilities to invest in ADMSs are listed by GTM Research as follows:

  • Growing data expectations- Regulators and customers want information that is accurate and instant during outages. That includes mobile capabilities and specific times for estimated time of restoration. Some utilities are taking social media feeds into their outage management systems.

  • Reduction in un-served electricity-Basically, outages mean no one is paying for electricity therefore, utilities are losing revenue. For utilities, this means that investments in reducing outages can directly impact their bottom line -- especially if they can do it using IT solutions rather than relying on expensive alternatives like burying lines.

  • Reduced overtime pay- Overtime racks up fast when major outages roll across a utility’s territory. New ADMS that can do digitally what used to have been done manually can greatly reduce operator overtime hours during major outages. Better communications and planning between the field and operators can ensure that field crews are deployed more effectively.

  • Reduction in miles driven-Situational awareness is key in outages, not just to pinpoint where the fault is, but also to ensure when full power is restored. Smart metering systems coupled with an ADMS have already shown benefits to some utilities to ensure crews can find faults more quickly and ensure it’s completely fixed before driving to the next location.

  • Increasing flexibility of performance-based ratemaking- In recent years, regulators and legislators have been turning to performance metrics to keep investor-owned utilities accountable for their investments. California, Illinois and Maryland have all ordered annual performance reviews for major utilities. The latter two states have tied cost recovery to meeting specific metrics.

  • Deeper evaluation of performance during major events- Although it’s a given that there will be outages after major weather events, utilities are increasingly being held responsible for prolonged outages. Earlier this year, for example, Commonwealth Edison was ordered to pay customers for damages from a prolonged outage in 2011.

Further reading

Engerati- Five Key elements to successful outage planning

Engerati – Ad Hoc Power Outage Cost Assessment and the Issue of Social Acceptance

Engerati- Transformer Condition Monitoring – A dashboard for your most important Transmission & Distribution Assets

Engerati – Integrating outage management and meter data management: What three utilities are learning