When the Power Goes Out

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What utilities need to know about the future of outage response

BY JOHN KUNASEK & RILCK NOEL, KPMG LLP

Invariably, when you have an electric utility providing power to customers, there will be cases when power is not available. There are diverse reasons for this—mechanical equipment failure, planned maintenance, operator error or forces of nature can cause power delivery to be interrupted. Irrespective of outage root causes, a certain number of customers are without power for some time.

In the utility industry, there are two types of outages: planned and unplanned. Planned outages may result from the scheduled installation of new equipment, system reconfiguration or maintenance. Examples of such include adding new transformers or circuit breakers to help distribute power to customers more reliably.

Planned outages are typically communicated to customers well in advance of the actual event and, in most cases, result in no adverse impact on customers, as affected areas and expected duration are accurately predicted and effectively communicated.

In today’s environment, unplanned outages are disconcerting to electric utilities, their customers and other stakeholders. Unplanned outages may have natural and man-made causes. Their natural causes include the following: severe storms, construction accidents and earthquakes. Unplanned outages are, by definition, unexpected and affect customers that were not notified in advance of power loss. In these situations, the time of power restoration is often communicated to the affected customers after the event and with varied degree of accuracy.

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