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How a Lack of Data Sharing Makes Utility Disruptions Worse

March 20, 2020

Power outages and other utility interruptions are on the rise. Considering that we’re still relying on an electric grid built in the ’50s and ’60s, which is reaching the end of its lifespan, it’s not surprising that infrastructures across the country are becoming more vulnerable to failure.

On top of that, the increase in extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and blizzards, are further damaging utilities — which leads to financial hardship and disruption within communities. The cost of power outages to the economy are high when businesses shoulder the consequences.

Field service crews and first responders dealing with emergencies during utility outages are also at a much greater risk. On top of the outage, these teams also have to deal with a general lack of data and operational visibility that leaves them uncertain about what they’re facing and how to proceed.

The Dangers of Siloed Utility Data

As retailers and companies in other fields have been transforming supply chains and daily operations with shared, centralized data, there’s been a notable lack of shared data analytics in the utility industry.

For example, an article published by The Balance last year outlined the damage and costs associated with 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. The storm affected more than 13 million people across five different states. Yet, while hundreds of thousands were without power, at least one person was electrocuted where utilities were still live amid the floodwaters.

The outages hit every utility provider in the area — but repair crews and response teams did not have the comprehensive, shared data they needed to understand the situation in its entirety.

In most other industries, the ability to share and analyze data is essential to creating markets where customers benefit from highly personalized service. The same can be true for power and utility companies, with the additional (and vital) benefit of driving decisions in crises and providing emergency personnel with up-to-date utility outage data.

How Sharing Data Can Solve the Problem

When a large-scale emergency strikes, having a plan of action and the capabilities to implement it is the only way to minimize damage and keep people safe. As Hurricane Harvey and many other examples over the last decade have proven, those capabilities must already be in place by the time an emergency strikes.

Outside of emergency situations, shared utility data adds significant value to the services utilities companies can provide their customers. Outages that result from non-emergency situations can be resolved much faster and more efficiently. Customers can have instant insights into how utility outages might affect their commutes to work or school.

In a utility outage that results from a natural disaster, that same information can save lives. Emergency response teams and utility repair crews can have real-time insights into any area. They’ll know if power lines are live before encountering them, what routes are clear, and how best to provide quick assistance to those in need.

When utility outages affect large areas and span multiple providers, having a free-flowing energy data exchange can make all the difference in recovery efforts.

To learn more about current efforts to promote greater operational visibility and data analytics in the utility industry, download our whitepaper, “A Brave New World of Data Sharing Between Utility Companies,” today.