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Severe Weather Safety for Utilities

by DrewLUD
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Defining the utilities industry and its importance

“The utilities sector refers to a category of companies that provide basic amenities, such as water, sewage services, electricity, dams, and natural gas. It is a large sector, and an important part of the U.S. economy, with a market capitalization of over $1.5 trillion (as of March 2021).” – Chris B. Murphy of Investopedia

There is an undeniable advantage to operational safety as it relates to utilities, which is the ability for people to engage in their everyday lives with minimal interruptions due to electricity, gas, water, or sewage. The safe and reliable use of utilities contributes to the everyday person’s sense of normalcy and quality of life.

The utilities sector is highly important for the economy, given that the production of almost all goods and services in today’s age rely on electricity, gas, and water. Examples of utilities include but are not limited to water, natural gas, electricity, and sewage and sanitation. Many types of companies are a part of the utilities sector— energy, electricity, water, natural gas, and sanitation companies— each with varying weather related challenges and needs.

How Does Severe Weather Impact Utilities Operations?

Severe weather affects the business operations for utility companies across the globe. According to Deloitte’s 2022 power and utilities industry outlook, extreme weather events have a negative impact on the reliability of utility companies. Utility companies must consider weather conditions and climate risks when developing their business strategies to deliver unfailing utility services. Essentially, utility companies strive to increase their resiliency in the face of severe weather, as utility customers and businesses rely on power, water, and gas to function even in the face of severe weather events. With a growing focus on utility resilience strategies, utility companies can harness the power of severe weather data and trends to improve reliability in the face of extreme lightning, thunderstorms, floods, heat waves, and more.

Accurate, up to the minute weather information is critical for successfully planning operations at a utility company. According to a report by the Duke Power Company, the utility industry classifies severe weather as a weather event that “directly causes widespread outages to a utility’s distribution system, or in a worst case, causes extensive damage to a utility’s transmission system.” Severe weather damage results in high restoration costs for utility companies. Severe weather events impact utility companies’ bottom line and threaten the reliability and reputability of utility companies to deliver power and water for utility customers.

In 2021, 350 million people worldwide experienced major power outages according to Power Grid International. In February of 2021, a catastrophic winter storm caused a massive power outage in Texas, leaving millions without electricity and killing at least 200 people.
Utility companies are facing pressures to consider better ways to handle the volatile changing climate and the increase in severe weather events. However, these climate challenges are being met with reluctance when it comes to state regulations.

Source: Statista – Largest electric utilities based on market value in the United States as of April 2021

Utilities, Electric Power Generation, and Weather Safety

Severe weather is the leading cause of electric power outages causing widespread damage to distribution systems and, in extreme weather events, can cause catastrophic damage to transmission systems. Utility companies in the electric power industry are responsible for generation of electricity, which is the process of generating electric power from energy sources such as coal, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, wind, or solar energy. Utility companies transform these forms of energy into electricity, then sell the generated electricity to companies and customers.

Inside of a power plant, where electricity is produced by electrical generators. Source: Fluid Handling Pro – Power Generation

What type of weather creates a risk at utilities facilities?

Storm-related power outages are one of the greatest weather risks affecting the utilities industry by damaging utility infrastructure. Lightning strikes can cause damage to equipment that is necessary for power plants to operate, while also posing a dangerous threat to power plant workers operating machinery. Other severe weather patterns that affect utilities include heat waves, heavy rainfalls, strong winds, wildfires, tornadoes, and hurricanes. These severe weather patterns can affect power lines, towers, generation equipment, and threaten worker and public safety. To avoid the pitfalls of severe weather disrupting operations, utility companies need to invest in climate resiliency and severe weather protection.

How to Stay Safe from Severe Weather Risks on Utilities Sites

You may be wondering, what is the impact of severe weather on utility operations at power plants? Severe weather events can essentially disrupt the electricity supply chain, which ultimately costs electricity consumers and businesses.

Real-time localized data from Earth Networks is the missing piece in outage forecast modeling. We provide advanced weather intelligence so utility companies can efficiently mobilize resources to reduce restoration time, while communicating more accurately with affected customers.

  • Build more accurate outage models with live weather data
  • Identify the time and location of outages more precisely
  • Enhance preparation and faster recovery to lower outage costs
  • Optimize preparation and recovery plans
  • Deploy field tech crew to areas with potential outages

How do utilities customers benefit from weather safety solutions?

Utilities are irreplaceable resources for people in need of water, natural gas, electricity, and sewage and sanitation— which is essentially everyone. So what is the human impact of safeguarding utility companies with severe weather safety? Millions of people will not go without power, heat, and clean water. Utility companies will not lose millions of dollars in infrastructure damage. Without Earth Networks’ severe weather protection services, utility companies such as Exelon, for example, would be disadvantaged from both a business standpoint and marketplace reputation. Severe weather safety solutions lend to fewer and shorter power outages and service disruptions, as well as better communication from power suppliers during outages.

A Look Back: 2021 Power Crisis in Texas

In February 2021, Texas experienced a statewide power outage due to severe cold temperatures plaguing the state. As millions went without power, 246 people died due to the harsh conditions, including hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, car accidents, and fires. Sadly, utility companies in the state were not prepared for the freezing temperatures and arctic chills, as power generators went offline. Not only were people tragically impacted by this power outage, but businesses also suffered by losing thousands of dollars in revenue due to power outages causing closures.

Predict and Prevent Outages

The integration of real-time weather information into the power grid enables operators and managers to operate a grid effectively and efficiently under changing weather variables, which enhances:

  • Damage response
  • Smart grid intelligence
  • Mitigation of power outages and service disruptions
  • Demand forecasting and response support
  • Consumer demand response programs

 

Which Earth Networks products will help with real-time weather observations for grid operations and management?

  • Sferic Maps
    A collaborative web-based weather visualization and planning dashboard
  • Meteorological Services
    Rely on our team of top weather scientists to advise you 24/7
  • Sferic API
    Infuse real-time weather information, hourly forecasts utilizing high accuracy models, and other top-notch weather data into your applications and analytical models

 

Earth Networks’ products and services benefit companies and customers in the energy and utilities sector in several ways. Here are a few:

  • Build more accurate outage models with live weather data
  • Identify the time and location of outages more precisely
  • Enhance preparation and faster recovery to lower outage costs
  • Optimize preparation and recovery plans
  • Deploy field crew to areas with potential outages

Keep your utilities operations safe

Needless to say, severe weather conditions can adversely affect utility operations. Stay ahead of the weather with Earth Networks’ severe weather safety and monitoring solutions.

To learn more about our products and services, feel free to check out our resources page or reach out to our customer service team by contacting them below.

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Source: Earth Networks