SOURCE: marcus evans

marcus evans

August 11, 2015 11:52 ET

Deploy Damage Assessment Tools and Technologies to Improve ETR for Outages

Interview with Iliana Rentz, Emergency Preparedness Program Manager, Florida Power & Light

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwired - August 11, 2015) - Improving estimated time of restoration (ETR) is critical during power outages to minimize lost resources, time and revenue. Currently, utilities are analyzing past ETR data, synchronizing this information, and using it to prepare for incidents ahead of time to quicken the restoration process.

Iliana Rentz, Emergency Preparedness Program Manager at Florida Power & Light, recently shared with marcus evans how FPL is collecting data and integrating new technologies to improve their storm response:

Since the 2005 Hurricane Wilma, the last major storm to hit Florida which affected more than 3 million FPL customers, FPL has invested some $2 billion to strengthen the poles and grid, including installing smart meters at most homes and businesses to relay information digitally about power links and use. What are some things that have both worked and not worked to help store electricity outages faster?

IR: We learned a great deal from the historic 2004-05 storm season and from Hurricane Wilma in particular. We studied the storms' impact on our system and we set out to build a stronger and smarter grid to deliver electricity our customers can count on in good weather and bad.

Since Wilma, we've invested more than $2 billion across our service area to make the electric grid stronger and more resilient in severe weather and help us restore service faster for our customers.

We've strengthened 572 main power lines serving critical community facilities such as hospitals, police and fire stations and emergency communication systems.

We've cleared vegetation -- a major cause of power outages -- from more than 120,000 miles of power lines. We've inspected more than 1.2 million power poles, upgrading or replacing those that no longer met our standards for strength.

We have also enhanced our system with smart grid technology, including 4.8 million smart meters, linked to thousands of intelligent devices along our poles and wires, all monitored 24/7 from state-of- the art diagnostic centers. This technology gives us greater visibility across the grid, as well as the ability to minimize the number of customers impacted by an outage, to automatically restore power and, in some cases, predict and address issues with the grid before customers even notice. The technology also gives our customers an unprecedented amount of information and control over their own energy use.

The result of these system improvements is more reliable service for our customers year-round. Over the past five years, we have improved reliability by about 20 percent. We offer the most reliable electric service of any investor owned utility in Florida and the best in the Southeastern U.S., as recognized by P.A. Consultants' ReliabilityOne awards. We were also recognized for making the best use of technology of any utility in the U.S.

Hurricanes are devastating forces of nature, and while no utility can be hurricane proof, we believe the investments we've made to build a stronger and smart grid will allow us to restore power faster following a storm and deliver more reliable service for our customers throughout the year.

You will be presenting a case study on the topic of "improving estimated time of restoration (ETR) and defining what your customer base wants to hear to ensure continued operations and utmost grid reliability". What strategies or tools has your company put in place to advance ETR?

IR: When outages occur, FPL understands that its customers need information about when their power will be restored. If a storm affects FPL's service territory, the company will work to restore power to every customer as soon as it is safe to begin, and will provide its best estimates of when service will be restored.

During large outages, FPL follows an overall plan that is designed to restore power to the greatest number of customers safely and as quickly as possible. As a priority, FPL restores power to electric lines and equipment that serve critical facilities, such as hospitals, police/fire stations, water treatment plants and 911 communication centers.

Immediately following a storm, we begin assessing the damage to the electric grid and calculating the estimated time of restorations. And, we provide you with timely updates after the storm has passed:

Within 4-8 hours, we will provide initial estimates of when most of our customers will be restored. (Note: Based on historical modeling and doesn't include assessment of damage.) Within 24 hours we will be provide a system-wide estimated time of restoration. Within 48 we will provide county-level estimated restoration times. And,

Within 72 to 96 hours we will provide estimates to the sub-county level.

During this entire post-landfall period, FPL crews and contractors are working 24 hours a day, until electricity is restored safely and as quickly as possible to every last customer.

As FPL works to speed restoration by leveraging crews from its utility partners, the total number of workers available from other utilities and out-of-state contractors may continue to grow. This may also result in updates to the ETRs initially given to the public.

During the "restoration" phase of our recovery plan, FPL will restore damaged areas to pre-storm conditions

In cases of extremely severe damage, FPL works with local agencies to identify customers who cannot receive power because of damage to their meter enclosure. We communicate with licensed contractors the need to complete work and pass inspection.

And, of course, we keep both individual customers and community leaders informed during our progress. Throughout the restoration, FPL will communicate frequently through the FPL website (www.FPL.com), FPL's Mobile Storm Center (mobile.FPL.com), Twitter (www.twitter.com/insideFPL), Facebook (www.facebook.com/FPLconnect), YouTube

(www.youtube.com/FPL) and FPL's blog (www.FPLblog.com) to provide updated restoration expectations and other progress reports. For updates, customers may also use Power Tracker, offered by FPL online at www.FPLmaps.com. FPL will also provide regular updates to the media.

FPL has recently implemented a "technology road map" that looks to add more apps, software and equipment. What are some of the key features, tools and benefits to the road map?

IR: FPL is putting smart grid technology in the hands of field restoration crews by developing mobile applications like the Restoration Spatial View (RSV). This innovative tool, which was developed in-house, combines outage tickets, weather information, electrical network information, customer energy consumption and voltage, restoration crew location, meter status and more -- all layered on a map view. RSV leverages GPS technology to see where our trucks are at any given moment and the smart grid to determine which customers have power and which ones still need to be restored.

Our crews in the field are armed with mobile devices including a new app. to help them assess damage and enter the information instantly. Ten years ago, this was a very time-consuming process that was done with pen and paper.

Automated damage assessment is an industry spotlight. FPL's trucks use satellite equipment and radio technology to communicate with crews in the event cell towers are down. Other resources we are experimenting with include drones, equipped with cameras, to deploy in those areas and conditions where the trucks can't go, to more safely collect data.

As of June 2015, FPL is unveiling a brand new mobile command center in hopes that the technology will help the company better respond in the event of a major storm this hurricane season. Can you tell us more about that and some of the systems or processes being executed?

IR: The Mobile Command Center enables FPL to monitor and manage its network on-scene at major events and emergencies, coordinate with stakeholders and ensure reliable service. FPL can leverage the Mobile Command Center's advanced technology to help restore power to customers safely and as quickly as possible. Our new mobile command center allows us to get close to the hardest hit areas and establish command and control of a restoration effort within hours of landfall.

Lastly, because weather plays a big role in operations for FPL, preparations include annual drills with mock hurricanes. What types of drills are employed?

IR: With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Wilma and the majority of our employees in new storm roles, we conducted first ever mock staging site drill in April. Staging sites operate like "mini-cities" or military encampments. They allow us to position our crews and equipment close to the areas impacted by a storm so we can respond safely and quickly to get the lights back on for our customers. It's been a while since many of our employees have had to activate a real staging site -- so this training exercise helped prepare them to respond when a severe storm strikes.

At FPL we train year-round. Seasonal training culminates with our annual Storm Dry Run in May. This exercise is a week-long drill where employees across the enterprise respond to a mock Hurricane and test their processes, identify gaps, hone in skills, and establish key follow ups to ensure readiness. This year we simulated a strike from a category 3 hurricane to put our employees to the test. Everyone in our company has a storm job as well as a regular job. We update our storm plan every year based on what we learn from the previous year's storms, both in and outside of Florida.

Iliana Rentz is the Emergency Preparedness Program Manager at Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), a direct wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. In this role, Iliana is responsible for managing enterprise-wide emergency preparedness and response plans and processes to ensure readiness. Her expertise is focused on hurricane and other severe weather conditions that affect FPL and NextEra assets. Mrs. Rentz has held this position since June 2014.

Iliana joined FPL in 2005 as a Business Analyst in the Distribution business unit and worked on financial and operational projects. Subsequently, Iliana transitioned to Project Coordinator working on resource planning and the preparation of financial controls and guidelines for FPL's Energy Smart Florida Smart Grid project. In addition, Iliana served as Power Delivery Emergency Preparedness Lead and developed a strong background in utility emergency response, restoration, training, and estimated time of restoration (ETR) processes.

Mrs. Rentz holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from American University. She is also a Six Sigma certified Black Belt and represents FPL as a member of the Southeast Electric Exchange Mutual Assistance Group as well as emergency response groups through the Edison Electric Institute. Mrs. Rentz and her husband reside in Miramar, Florida with their two children.

Join Iliana at the 15th Annual Outage Response & Restoration Management Conference, October 21- 23, 2015 at the W-Midtown in Atlanta, GA. View the conference agenda to check out Iliana's case study topic. For more information, please contact Tyler Kelch, Assistant Marketing Manager, marcus evans at 312.894.6310 or Tylerke@marcusevansch.com.

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