Many utilities have a long-standing relationship with fiber networks for monitoring and controlling their power distribution grids and it’s one that is increasingly proving valuable to the communities they serve both in terms of improving electric services and generating measurable economic benefits to their customers.
“The cost of power outages to our communities is tremendous,” said Katie Espeseth, Vice President of New Products at EPB and FBA Power Utilities Roundtable Chair. “The cost of power outages to Chattanooga was nearly $100 million a year. It’s a cost to our customers as lost productivity if the cash registers or point of sale terminals are not working. If we could improve reliability and cut those outages in minutes and instances, we could provide a huge benefit to our community.”
Ten years after turning up its Smart Grid infrastructure, EPB has reduced power outage instances by 65% percent and outage minutes by 52%, translating into nearly $50 million dollars of wealth or productivity the community has gained with improved service.
Alabama Power, serving 1.5 million homes and 45,000 square miles of territory across the state, sees similar results in improvements in the number of outages and reduction in minutes. “There are a lot of instances where we have a full fiber deployment and artificial intelligence that sits on top of that, outages can happen and a consumer doesn’t even experience it because it cycles in six-sixteenths of a second,” said George Stegall, Connectivity Manager at Alabama Power. “You can also design the power grid to be much smaller so fewer customers are affected: 300 customers for a given outage as opposed to 1,500 or more that would be impacted.”
But fiber is now moving from a power utility management tool to something much more. “We consider broadband service an essential utility,” said Pete Hoffswell, Superintendent of Broadband Services at Holland Board of Public Works. “If the Internet service for your business goes out, you can’t run the cash register. We have downtown restaurants with a momentary internet outage, it’s a major panic.”
EPB’s Chattanooga fiber network has delivered $2.7 billion of economic impact in its decade of operation, through a combination of smart grid savings, new businesses being launched, and the creation of 9500 new jobs. As more utilities express interest in deploying fiber networks, the monthly FBA Power Utilities Roundtable members are considering lengthening its scheduled meeting time. “The conversations keep blowing through our hour sessions,” said Hoffswell.
Learn more from the Power Utilities roundtable by listening to the Fiber for Breakfast podcast to hear how broadband is becoming a utilities mission.