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Data – An essential tool for utilities to prepare for extreme weather conditions


Memories of last February’s Winter Storm Uri will likely linger long in the minds of residents of Texas and the Deep South. Uri has hit the region with heavy snowfall, ice and below normal temperatures of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, leaving millions of people without power, running water and heat. It was the costliest winter storm on record, resulting in losses of $24 billion.

Remarkably, Uri was just one of 20 weather and climate disasters in 2021 that each caused more than $1 billion in losses in the United States, according to the National Environmental Information Centers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The same agency reported a sharp increase in the frequency of disasters over $1 billion: there were 123 during the 2010s, nearly double the 63 that occurred during the 2000s.

As electric utilities and other power providers face the reality of more extreme weather conditions, they are making significant investments to ensure they can better withstand and adapt to these events. These investments include pole replacements, weatherization of power plants and gas supply lines, landfilling of assets, microgrids and grid reconfigurations.

Data-driven knowledge of early network disruption indicators

Data is another critical ingredient in preparing for extreme weather conditions. When a hurricane, winter storm, heat wave, or other weather event is approaching an area, good data can increase awareness of the warning signs of major power grid disruptions.

For example, information about weather-related power plant shutdowns, real-time electricity demand, and short-term weather forecasts can inform forecasts of whether demand will significantly exceed supply or capacity. transmission lines – and will cause major outages for utility customers.

Putting this data about upcoming weather patterns into historical context can create even more actionable insights.

“Through careful data analysis, utilities can identify historical weather event conditions that have led to extreme market reactions,” said Cliff Rose, product manager at Yes Energya main supplier comprehensive analysis tools and data on the electricity market. “For example, during some heat waves, we have seen winds drop and wind turbines shut down, leading to production shortages, skyrocketing electricity prices and customer outages. If a weather event moves into an area, an electricity supplier can use our platform to track market conditions in real time. If future conditions exhibit similar patterns to historical events, this may lead to the conclusion that similar extreme market reactions could occur. »

Data-driven decisions during active weather events

Data can also add significant value to a public service when a weather event has already happened in an area. For example, if a storm has damaged generation facilities, an electricity supplier can leverage electricity market data to identify the most cost-effective generation to purchase in the area. Informed purchasing decisions allow them to continue to provide reliable and profitable service to customers even during the storm.

“We can provide the data context to inform what the best market moves might be,” said Will Dailey, Chief Commercial Officer of Yes Energy. “Our data platform provides utilities with clear visibility into key regional and cross-regional electricity data such as prices, load, transmission outages and transmission constraints, both currently and over a With the acquisition of Live Power’s July 2022 generation and transmission monitoring data, our customers can also see which plants and lines may be down or operating at limited capacity. de main helps our utility customers refine their strategies as weather events approach their territories.”

Information based on data after weather events

Strong data also allows utilities to perform intelligent post-hoc analyzes of what happened on the network when a weather event unfolded. For example, how did the event affect market conditions, such as location-specific demand and electricity prices received by certain power plants? Based on the insights gained from these analyses, utilities can avoid repeating mistakes that may have caused major network disruptions.

“Utilities want to stay out of the headlines, and there’s no surer way to make headlines than to have extended outages in your territory,” Dailey said. “It is incredibly difficult to manage the power grid during severe weather events. Even the best-prepared utility has to endure outages. The question is how to anticipate these events and how to defend the actions you have taken to minimize the impact of outages. »

“Data analysis should be a basic skill,” he advised. “History is a good teacher. Historical data can help utilities make fully informed and defensible decisions during today’s weather events to help keep them out of the headlines. »

A few days after winter storm Uri, Yes Energy analyzed its data to demonstrate that grid operators actually made a lot of good decisions very quickly that prevented the situation from getting worse.

“We have received requests from regulators to use our data to assess the impact of Uri on network operations,” Dailey noted. “Other customers have used our Uri data to predict how ice build-up from even minor winter storms could affect wind operations and market conditions. There is a lot to learn from this wealth of data if you can harness it effectively. We help our clients do just that.

Data is essential to prepare for the future

In addition to helping utilities make informed decisions in real time in response to weather events, data can help them justify their decisions. They can use it to demonstrate that they have used all the tools at their disposal to avoid network disruption and justify new network investments.

“A utility could use our platform to quantify the dollar impact of a power plant outage due to an extreme weather event and use that figure to justify investments in grid reliability and resiliency,” proposed Pink. Armed with a data-driven understanding of the impact of historical weather events on grid operations, utilities can better explain to regulators why they need to approve investments in hardening or winterizing grid assets to prepare for future events.

Supporting a resilient and reliable grid during extreme weather conditions requires a nuanced understanding of many interrelated aspects of electricity markets. Yes Energy’s comprehensive data platform provides a clear visual picture of how these aspects interact to provide actionable solutions to real-time and future weather challenges.