Adding Intelligence to Outage Management with Integrated Cloud-Based Digital Platforms
January 17, 2022
By Paridhi Gupta, Marketing, Smart Energy Water
“The grid is not ready for the 21st century.”
“Climate change will lead to frequent outages, and utilities are unprepared.”
Headlines such as these have become commonplace. Nothing eye-opening about these. Mundane.
What is puzzling is the quantum of losses utilities bear each year in their efforts to mitigate the outage-related challenges. While significant efforts are directed to modernize the grid, let’s learn how utilities can add intelligence to outage management with digital platforms.
But first, why do we need intelligent outage management?
Utilities must be prepared for weather fluctuations, extreme events, growing network complexity, emergency disruptions, excavation digging, damage from the public, and whatnot. There is no doubt that utilities are under pressure to deliver the best for their customers while taking regulatory constraints into account to accelerate the recovery of outages and obtain more accurate estimates of turnaround times. For many utilities, the strength of their outage management system is truly being tested. In times of crisis, customers show no tolerance for poor communications and uncertainty. They expect instant, precise and all necessary communication on the channel of their choice.
Utilities need to minimize outage impact via an improved understanding of event scenarios, real-time grid monitoring, and more effective use of human resources. Indeed, platforms need to be designed to meet the demands of a changing utility customer experience, field service management and best address the industry’s new challenges by accelerating digital transformation.
Below are some areas utilities need to consider to better the outage experience:
- Expand advanced distribution grid operational tools to optimize outage restoration
- Invest in Digital Customer and Workforce Experience
- Leverage data to drive maintenance and workforce to reduce outages
- Increase frequency, specificity, the accuracy of communicating and estimated time to restoration (ETRs) with customers journeys
- Improve IT and OT systems, automation networks and integration scalability to handle the increased number of outages
- Incorporate analytics to improve system reliability and restoration insights
- Invest in grid hardening for increased system resiliency
And about letting the customers know, managing their expectations – give them the tools that provide consistent messaging and regular updates, build customer journeys to provide more control, choice, and convenience.
Undoubtedly, customer experience is evolving. Both residential and business customers depend on outage communications from their utility to mitigate the impact of an outage and plan their day accordingly.
The Information Value Loop
The simple steps that empower utilities to generate an accurate, timely restoration information:
Damage Assessment: Completing a thorough damage assessment as quickly as possible is essential to providing customers with the clarity they need, as well as identifying the resource requirements and developing priorities. The ideal timeframe? 24 to 48 hours in a major event where restoration can take ten or more days. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics, and other modern technologies can also be used to assess the situation regardless of the source. Start with a pilot and scale with set timeframes.
A mock-up: With a clear understanding of the damage, utilities can determine more specific ETRs early in the restoration process. Algorithms thereby empower utilities to model and assess multiple restoration scenarios and provide location- and customer-specific information. Such detailed & precise information is invaluable.
Right Communication: It’s best to avoid and host communication only through outage maps or call center units. Two-way conversation channels such as outage apps – which carry the added advantage of push notifications and chat functionality – as well as social media and text-based chatbots allow utilities to connect with their customers on their terms. Hence winning customers trust & expectations.
Beginning the workforce journey – Restore power quickly and efficiently
An effective resilience strategy readies utility businesses to bounce back quickly from major and even multiple events and makes a case for proactive investment and maintenance. Improving restoration time and effectiveness by accelerating crew productivity is critical for outage management. Now is the time to start connecting customers and the workforce.
Outages are a very human problem, and many hands together make light work. A connected customer and workforce journey does add intelligence to outage management.
About Smart Energy Water
Smart Energy Water, with its innovative and industry-leading cloud platforms, delivers the best Digital Customer Experiences (CX) and Workforce Experiences (WX), powered by AI, ML, and IoT Analytics to the global energy, water, and gas providers. At SEW, the vision is to Engage, Empower, and Educate billions of people to save energy and water. We partner with businesses to deliver platforms that are easy-to-use, integrate seamlessly, and help build a strong technology foundation that allows them to become future-ready.