The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District

The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District

Leading the Way

Bringing ‘energy intelligence’ to OPPD

August 24, 2021 | Wire Staff | customer service, innovation, public power
Energy intelligence

OPPD is getting future-ready, bringing the concept of “energy intelligence” to its electrical system and its customers.

The domestic energy industry is changing rapidly, driven by sharp advances in technology and an evolution of customer preferences. The July 10, 2021, storm and ensuing recovery made clear the need to prioritize the exploration and adoption of a technological ecosystem surrounding Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). This complex solution would boost system resiliency, equipment reliability and OPPD’s commitment to personalized customer service.

Exploration and education

Customers are sometimes surprised to learn that when their power goes out OPPD doesn’t automatically know about it.

However, much of the current energy delivery system is just that: delivery.

It’s a one-way process, sort of like the postal service. If someone mails you a letter, they generally only know you received it if you then inform them.

With current technologies, OPPD only knows if your power is out at your home or business if you self-report the outage by telephone, app or online.

Energy intelligence seeks to change that by introducing two-way communication.

Expectations and ecosystem

Many utilities are in a similar position. Customers have grown to expect real-time information. When the power goes out, customers want to know when their power will return. They want a personalized, accurate estimated time of restoration, delivered via the medium of their choosing – text, email, telephone call.

Energy intelligence requires a hardware and software ecosystem, including equipment to sense and report power disruptions, GPS mapping to pinpoint the outage, automated callouts and routing for restoration crews, and so forth.

Together, these systems must be robust, secure and affordable so individual customer meters can “talk” to OPPD’s grid.

Exceeding expectations

Going beyond customer-owner expectations is at the heart of this project. Time and again, OPPD customers have expressed that power reliability and resiliency matter to them most. Those elements are foundational to energy intelligence.

Customers will ultimately see benefits of enhanced restoration because dispatchers at OPPD’s Energy Control Center will know at the individual meter level where and when outages occur. Customer Service can then communicate timely, personalized information about the outage, including when it should end.

Work underway

Much of the work underpinning energy intelligence is already in progress. However, before acquiring and implementing such a system, it’s important to recognize that it’s one part of a much broader solution.

Things like robust communications infrastructure – fiber optics, radio frequency, 5G – bulk data management systems, new training and rigorous operational process will contribute to the energy intelligence ecosystem. All of this must be wrapped in OPPD’s tight security and regulatory framework.

Getting this project right is a time- and resource-consuming challenge, one that the utility intends to approach thoughtfully and with appropriate urgency.

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