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Smarter Energy Infrastructure for Faster Storm Response

Tropical Storm Isaias was one of the most devastating storms in our company’s history, affecting energy service for more than 200,000 of our customers. The storm caused extensive damage to our electric equipment due to confirmed tornado activity in portions of our service area and damaging winds gusting to more than 100 mph. Two additional severe storms, that impacted the region shortly after Isaias passed through, made this restoration effort even more challenging.

Even with these challenges, our advanced planning and preparation for severe weather events allowed crews to restore service for 90 percent of the customers impacted by Isaias within 48 hours and 95 percent in 72 hours.

All customers, including those in the most heavily damaged areas, were restored within five days. To accomplish this, we amassed one of the largest contingents of personnel ever with more than 1,700 workers dedicated to supporting our customers.

As monumental as this effort was, it could have been better. Smarter technology and more information can make our response faster and more efficient. As extreme weather continues to become more and more severe, we want to be prepared to continue to meet our customers’ expectations and restore service as quickly as possible.

Later this month, we will submit a proposal to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to build a Smart Energy Network across our entire service area, including installing smart meters, also referred to as advanced metering infrastructure, and specialized networking equipment. These upgrades are proven to enhance the reliability and resiliency of energy service, in addition to numerous other benefits for customers.

The Smart Energy Network will help us safely restore power to customer homes and businesses faster and more efficiently than ever before. In the event of a power outage, smart meters will alert us and assist crews in identifying the cause and location of the outage. Using real-time data, we can better prioritize how we dispatch crews and plan restoration work, streamlining restoration efforts and restoring our customers faster following major storms and hurricanes.

For example, during Tropical Storm Isaias we had to rely on manually placing thousands of phone calls to confirm the status of a customer’s service. This is not only labor intensive, but also inefficient, and often leads to dispatching restoration crews just to confirm that service has already been restored. In contrast, the team managing the storm response at our sister company, Delmarva Power, where customers have smart meters, could see customer outages in real time. By remotely “pinging” the meter to determine whether a meter was on or not, Delmarva Power quickly and efficiently identified outages and dispatched restoration crews.  This resulted in faster responses to outages. In the first 24 hours after Isaias, Delmarva Power was able to use smart technology to complete more than 400 outage orders without a field visit, saving time and pointing restoration crews to where they were truly needed.

I am extremely proud of all our employees, contractors and field personnel for their dedication to restoring power for our customers in the wake of Isaias and thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we worked around the clock to restore their service. With a Smart Energy Network, we can give our first responders even more tools and information to better serve our customers, further minimizing the impacts of future storms in our region.

For more information on the Smart Energy Network, visit the Atlantic City Electric Smart Energy Network page.

Gary Stockbridge is region president for Atlantic City Electric and Delmarva Power.