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Updating smart grid will likely lead to fewer supply disruptions

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, July 18, 2011

The smart grid is being lauded by the Obama Administration and utility professionals because of its ability to quickly identify and patch power supply disruptions, among other benefits. According to a published report, a recent spate of power outages in Illinois could have been prevented had the state's transmission and distribution network been updated.

The Daily Herald reports that last Monday thousands of homes and businesses were left without power after a series of strong storms swept through the Chicago, Illinois region, knocking down power lines and ultimately causing outages. Representatives from one of the biggest utilities in the state, as well as from the state's Citizen's Utility Board, recently said that such outages could be prevented in the future as the components of the grid are updated.

The state's power supply network is in dire need of upgrades, according to industry analysts, and while fears have emerged over the past few months regarding the ability of utilities to enact measures that protect critical infrastructures, the smart grid presents many utilities with the ability to simply run their businesses better.

For example, while homeowners and businesses have to currently report when power is out, the smart grid enables utilities to automatically identify where power supply disruptions occur. What's more, they can easily patch and fix such problems by circumventing regions of the grid that are affected by inclement weather and other disruptions.

In an interview this week, Tabrina Davis, a spokeswoman for ComEd, which is one of the state's biggest utilities, affirmed that the company was actively working to upgrade its power supply network to prevent disruptions from so significantly impacting residents. This last storm that left thousands of businesses and homes without power for days would have been largely mitigated by the smart grid, Davis asserted.

"If Smart Grid technology had been in place, here's how it would have minimized the impact of the storm: ComEd would have known customers were out of power without them having to call us," she said.

"Technology would have pinpointed outages allowing us to dispatch crews more quickly to restore service. Digital automation would have rerouted power or corrected a problem before an outage occurs meaning fewer customers would have seen outages, and thousands of customers may have never experienced an outage. With the June 21 storm, we estimate that 100,000 customers would have never experienced an outage. With the July 11 storm, we estimate that approximately 175,000 customers would have never experienced an outage."

Many utilities are moving to replace outdated infrastructure with new models, including automated substations and other tools like the SUBNET IED Toolkit that enable businesses to more seamlessly monitor their power supply networks. 

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