Numbers tell tale of smart grid need


Baltimore Gas and Electric assists PECO, its sister utility, with restoration efforts in Pennsylvania. (Credit: BGE/Flickr)

Last month, I alerted you to the fact that you would be receiving a request for your input as part of a collaborative research effort by FierceSmartGrid and Zpryme. The monthly Smart Grid Index, or SGI, provided by Zpryme and FierceSmartGrid, is an objective, unbiased market indicator that captures real-time industry sentiment, outlook, and performance so utility and smart grid executives can better assess their performance against their peers while reducing the risk associated with smart grid-related investments.

Now, for some results from the online poll taken on November 1 and 2.

Smart Grid Index results

The first SGI survey of 186 smart grid executives asked that, given the massive damage and power outages caused by superstorm Sandy, do you think smart grid technologies could have helped utilities restore power faster had they been fully deployed (in transmission and distribution systems)?

The results were telling and revealed that 79 percent of smart grid executives believe smart grid technologies could have helped the impacted utilities restore power faster. Just 21 percent of executives currently believe that smart grid technology would not have helped power restoration efforts in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

The extensive electric disturbance from superstorm Sandy raises questions about whether the smart grid could make the current U.S. grid more resilient.

Numbers back smart grid need

The SGI feedback from executive smart grid decision makers from across the energy ecosystem underpins the need for a smarter grid. But the data from the five days after the devastation underscore the need even more.

At 8:00 pm EST on October 29 2012, the National Hurricane Center reported that Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ as a post tropical cyclone. The storm had brought heavy rain, winds, and snow in higher elevations to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, and portions of the Midwest.

With new information from the U.S. Department of Energy, Zpryme has compiled information regarding the startling number of people affected by the disaster and broken it down by state.

In its special report, 5-Day Hurricane Sandy Report, Zpryme reports total Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy power outages by day from October 29 through November 2:

  • October 29: 316,563 outages/customers without power
  • October 30: 8,204,190 outages/customers without power
  • October 31: 6,062,526 outages/customers without power
  • November 1: 4,454,650 outages/customers without power
  • November 2: 3,491,595 outages/customers without power

With the current state of infrastructure these outages were largely unavoidable but are decreasing in number every day. However, even small investments in the capabilities of smart grid can pay off.

"Power outages that lanced the East Coast were in most cases inescapable; however the resiliency of utilities to better understand and quickly pinpoint the cause of the outages could be greatly improved by the smart grid," said Mark Ishac, managing director of Zpryme's Smart Grid Insights practice.

"Also, not all utilities are created equal when it comes to an electricity infrastructure overhaul. For many, even small investments, such as mobile apps for customers to report outages can make an immediate difference," he said, adding that Twitter has been the social media vehicle of choice for customers during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.