Friday, December 16, 2011

Smart Meters - Alabama and the April 27th Tornadoes

I ended up at the website for Alabama Power and read their December 5th 2011 newletter.   They quantify the benefits coming from better information about power outages.

Alabama has a population on the same scale as BC and has their own season of storms that knock out power.   On April 27th 400,00 customers lost power.  It is because of the smart meter system that they could much more quickly and effectively use their resources when restoring power.  They have shown in action how the smart meters do really improve managing outages.   They also got an award for sharing what they learned to other utilities.

My understanding of the BC Hydro smart meters is that they are even better in signalling when they are connected and not connected than the ones used in Alabama.

The smart meters allow the company to know immediately when the power goes out.  It also means the company knows exactly how far the outage extends.   It also allows the company to focus the resources where the problem is and are then able to know when it is all completely fixed.

Power outages should be shorter now and the Alabama experience indicates this really is the case.   For most home owners getting power back on is not as crucial as it is for many businesses.   Power outages are especially problematic for food retailers and restaurants.   If the temperature in a fridge rises over 4 degrees C, everything should be disposed of.   If the temperature in a freezer reaches 0 degrees C, everything should be disposed of.   The longer the outage, the more likely that there is a problem.

For businesses that are open during an outage, the lack of electrical power makes it unrealistic to continue doing any work.  You can not work on your computer, your landline will be down, cash registers will not work, point of sale will not work, and there will be no light.   There are some sort of businesses open at any given time of the day.   Every outage has an negative economic impact.   Shorten the outage and you reduce the cost to the economy.

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