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Using Innovative Automation to Keep Your Lights On

Beneath the hustle and bustle of streets in the District of Columbia and portions of Maryland is an underground labyrinth of cables and equipment that provide power to our Pepco customers. More than 7,000 miles of cable weave through tunnels to form the foundation of a reliable local energy grid, helping support fewer interruptions from weather with less maintenance cost and no visual clutter of utility poles and cables overhead.

Work is underway to make our underground local energy grid even more reliable. In 2022, we began installing state of the art switches that will further limit outage impacts for our customers.

The switches function like a circuit breaker in your home, but on a much larger scale. These devices can tell if there’s a failure and automatically limit the impact caused from a single fault. Once the switch is activated, the Pepco system operator is instantly notified and can work to limit the disruption remotely by quickly and safely re-routing power to unaffected areas of the circuit, minimizing both the frequency and duration of power outages.

“The collaboration between various engineering, project management, and field construction teams has set this project up for success throughout the various stages of execution” said Robert Spelman, senior manager of Underground Construction and Maintenance for Pepco. “This innovative project demonstrates our commitment to improving the customer experience and will help set the stage for future automation in the underground distribution system to continue to provide safe and reliable service.”

Pepco crews successfully installed and energized six of these switches in 2023, with 15 more scheduled for installation this year across our service region. As the program expands, eighteen switches will be installed per year over the next five years. This is just one of several projects underway to bring reliable service to our customers. To learn more about these efforts visit our current reliability projects website.