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Outage management improves

Chugach is installing a new Outage Management System that takes advantage of advances in technology to speed outage reporting, analysis, restoration and communications.

An Outage Management System – or OMS – uses computer programs to take input from multiple sources and databases, help diagnose problem, manage work assignments and keep interested parties informed of the status of events. Chugach has been using outage management systems for years, but advances in technology offer significant improvements in the new system. When combined with an additional project to replace meters on the system, Chugach will have a modern system that should reduce outage time.

Like the prior system, Chugach’s new OMS will take outage reports entered by a service representative talking to a customer, or those submitted by customers using a telephone keypad or reported via the Internet.

Unlike the old system, the new OMS also takes reports from individual meters that automatically report when they lose or regain power. That is a significant benefit to customers who may be away from home or work when the outage occurs. Over the next several years Chugach will be replacing the 80,000 meters on its system with new Advanced Metering Infrastructure meters that can do significantly more than the prior generation of meters that went into service in the 1990s. In 2015, Chugach is installing the first 6,000 new meters at locations served by the O’Malley, Hillside and Beluga substations – areas that historically have had frequent or lengthy outages.

As outages are reported, the new OMS correlates the inputs with Chugach’s geographic system maps and customer records, so dispatchers in the Power Control Center can see exactly where power is out and have the associated customer information available on-screen. Based on the reported outages, the OMS predicts how large the outage area is, what protective device likely tripped and if known, just where a crew should be sent to look for a problem.

Both customers and Chugach employees will be able to watch in real time as outages develop, are diagnosed and restored. Online maps will provide customers with information about when an outage began, what area is affected, what the estimated time of restoration is and whether or not a crew has been dispatched to the scene.

In time, customers will be able to enroll for automatic outage notification via email, text or a phone call. Chugach envisions phasing that feature of the OMS in during 2016.

The initial components of Chugach’s new OMS will be activated over a 4-week period between late September and late October.

While it had monitored developments in outage management over the years, Chugach’s determination to install a new OMS and take advantage of advances in technology was fueled by the widespread and lengthy outages caused by an unusual series of 100-mph windstorms in September 2012.