The Baytown service area flooded following Hurricane Harvey.

Grid Hardening Programs Boost Power Reliability

Sept. 13, 2019
CenterPoint Energy continues to invest in initiatives to make its grid more resilient.

CenterPoint Energy is committed to the safe, reliable delivery of electricity in all the communities it serves and prepares for severe weather events. However, no two storms are alike, which makes it difficult to forecast what the exact damage to the electric system could be and how long outages could last.

For example, a series of severe thunderstorms swept through Houston, Texas this year, impacting the utility’s distribution system. A single storm in May 2019 was strong enough to bring the system up to an elevated trouble level.

Linemen worked through the night to restore power to around 103,000 customers following the May 10 storm. By 1:40 a.m., the number of outages dropped to 85,000. Once the lightning cleared, the linemen were able to safely climb the poles and continue making the necessary repairs.

While factors like significant weather events that affect reliability are beyond CenterPoint Energy’s control, the company continues to make improvements to its system to enhance overall reliability. Following the recent thunderstorms, CenterPoint Energy identified new work projects to harden the system and developed a strategy around its completion. Vegetation management crews also proactively trim trees year-round to clear vegetation away from the electric facilities to prevent tree-related outages due to contact between any vegetation and conductors.

Proactive Programs

CenterPoint Energy has several programs in place to continue its efforts on grid hardening and improve the resiliency of its grid. The utility has installed smart meters and implemented Power Alert Service, which sends power outage and restoration notifications and estimated down-time via text, email or phone. The utility has also focused on such initiatives as trees and vegetation management, poles and equipment upgrades, and LED street light conversion.

The company has continued to install automated devices and other switches to minimize power outages. These devices reroute service around sections that cannot be energized due to damage caused by storms.

As of today, CenterPoint Energy has installed hundreds of automated intelligent grid-switching devices that work in conjunction with the utility’s overall ADMS system. As the company replaces damaged manual switches, the automated switches may be used to add more automation to the grid.

Engaging Its Field Workforce

Once CenterPoint Energy identifies certain hardening projects, the utility actively engages its linemen in training on the operation and maintenance of any new devices. The linemen are an essential part of the grid-hardening efforts during construction, operations, repair and replacement. Linemen serve as the backbone of the utility’s hardening efforts through the work they perform day in, day out and rain or shine.

CenterPoint Energy is continuously evaluating programs to proactively identify and mitigate issues in the future. As it looks ahead, the company is using technology for the creation and maintenance of a more resilient grid.

CenterPoint Energy is proud of building Houston’s smart grid, and the company is continuously seeking to improve it and working hard every day to safely and efficiently keep its customers’ lights on.

Sidebar: Safety Tips from CenterPoint Energy

Instead of bogging down its phone lines during storms, CenterPoint Energy created a new Twitter account specifically designed to keep its customers informed during severe weather. For example, here are some of the tips that were recently shared on the account @CNPalerts:

Safe Driving. CenterPoint Energy reminded its customers that its linemen "use the same roads you do" and urged them to be patient while working through difficult conditions.

Food Safety Guidelines. Following a power outage, food will stay safe in an unopened refrigerator for four hours and an unopened freezer for 24 hours.

Stay Away From Downed Power Lines. Power lines could be hidden in floodwaters and standing water could carry an electrical current. Be especially careful at night, when it’s impossible to see downed lines, CenterPoint Energy warned its customers.

Unplug Appliances. In an effort to restore power more quickly, CenterPoint Energy asked its customers to unplug appliances and electronics.

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