San Diego Gas & Electric launches advanced Outage Management System

San Diego Gas & Electric, or SDG&E, has announced the launch of an advanced Outage Management System, or OMS, that will use new 'smart grid' technology to speed up the detection of power outages and help utility personnel to restore electricity faster to the customers.

The OMS uses new computer software that provides grid operators with real time information about the status of the electric network to help them restore outages quicker. The new software enhances situational awareness of the entire distribution system and allows SDG&E to know what's happening on the grid for immediate detection and swifter restoration of outages.

SDG&E has integrated a Geographic Information System (GIS) into the new outage management system, which provides highly-detailed geographical images and technical data about the electric grid. In addition to localized outages, the OMS will prove useful to track multiple outages during large storms to ensure power is restored as soon as possible.

"The capabilities of the new Outage Management System will make SDG&E one of the most innovative and effective utilities in the US for responding to outages," said David Geier, vice president of electric operations for SDG&E.

"By connecting this system to our extensive network of smart meters, we will have a comprehensive view into the real time state of the grid, which will allow us to identify and restore outages faster due to this amazing technology we have implemented for San Diego."

The OMS leverages data from approximately 1.4 million smart meters that SDG&E has successfully installed across the region. The smart meters send remote alerts back to the control room within seconds of an outage occurring in the surrounding neighborhood.

Previously, grid operators often had to rely on customers to report outages over the phone, which could take time if the outage occurred late at night or in a remote location with few residents. By leveraging the technological flexibility of the smart meters, SDG&E will know immediately when an outage happens anywhere on the system and dispatch crews to make necessary and prompt repairs. The smart meters can also send a signal to let SDG&E know when power is back on.

In addition to smart meters, the new OMS uses other technology to bolster outage restoration times. SDG&E is continuing to install Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) devices throughout the electric system to enhance reliability overall.

These "smart switches" employ wireless connections that allow remote control of switches and circuit breakers from a centralized control room. The SCADA switches can move power around problem areas and restore service to many customers prior to dispatching crews to the field. The utility has installed SCADA systems on 98% of transmission lines and 70% of distribution lines, which provide electricity to local communities.

By integrating the capabilities of the smart meters, SCADA switches and GIS into one system, SDG&E will improve situational awareness and electric grid reliability.

SDG&E will realize other operational benefits as the system builds out in the future, including diagnostic information that details when maintenance is required on parts of the grid, which could fix some potential problems before an outage occurs.