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Digital Tech Enables CenterPoint to Manage Mission-Critical Grid Operations in Real Time

April 19, 2017
Intelligent software-based solutions provide, real-time actionable data enabling efficient response to flood disaster situation and restoration of power for 90% of the 240,000 people impacted within 27 hours.
CenterPoint Energy’s intelligent grid is designed to provide best-in-class service to their 2.4 million metered customers in south east Texas. The new technology and the utility’s storm response teams were put to test during a severe storm in 2016 with wind, lightning and widespread flooding as well as road closures. More than 240,000 customers experienced interrupted service. During the storm, more than 600 overhead line fuses and 650 transformers were taken out of action, resulting in extensive outages. A swift restoration by the field crews was also hampered due to the road closures across Houston. This required the handling of a lot of data related to the power outages – to quickly understand the situation, prioritize actions and deploy resources. The intelligent grid solution deployed by Center Point Energy has, at its heart, ABB’s Network Manager advanced distribution management system. It uses information from the 2.4 million advanced meters and field sensors to enable real-time grid monitoring and control. It is integrated with ABB’s Service Suite mobile workforce management software and an advanced outage analytics package to tie it all together.
“We are proud to have contributed to CenterPoint Energy’s digital transformation with intelligent grid solutions that deliver real-time actionable data and enable efficient mission critical response to events such as such as the Houston floods, making it possible to restore power to consumers quickly and efficiently” said Massimo Danieli, Managing Director of the Grid Automation business unit, a part of the company’s Power Grids division. “Our ABB Ability based digital offering enables utilities to minimize the impact of outages, and supports our vision of enabling a stronger, smarter and greener grid.” The new technology installed over the last few years has helped CenterPoint to quickly identify, isolate and restore power following outages. In addition, advanced meters and data analytics provided immediate insight into the situation so the right crews with the right equipment can be sent to restore the outage. “Over the last few years our smart grid technology has reduced outages by more than 194 million minutes, enabled restoration of more than 1.5 million outage cases without a customer phone call, and saved consumers $20-25 million per year in eliminated fees from service automation. At the same time, we saved more than 1.65 million gallons of fuel, which is equivalent to more than 14,900 tons of carbon dioxide emissions” said Kenny Mercado, Senior Vice President Electric Operations of CenterPoint Energy. “As a result of our Advanced Metering System and Intelligent Grid we have seen a 23 percent improvement in power reliability and are able to identify outages 50-70 percent faster.” In the case of a power outage the customers are notified by text, email or phone and they receive an estimated time of restoration, status updates and confirmation when their power supply is restored. The displays within CenterPoint’s control room show outage case details and available restoration resources, so controllers can quickly and effectively identify trouble spots and send field crews. These digitalization efforts began in 2009 when CenterPoint Energy received a $200 million stimulus grant from the US Department of Energy to improve the reliability and efficiency of the Houston power grid. The backdrop was provided by Hurricane Ike in 2008, when 1.9 million consumers were impacted by power outages and some of them left without power for weeks. CenterPoint’s digital transformation of the grid included automation of 31 substations; the installation of 866 intelligent grid switching devices on more than 200 distribution circuits, and distribution line monitors with remote terminal units. A wireless radio frequency mesh telecommunications network was also built across the utility’s coverage area. CenterPoint Energy has received many awards for its improved power reliability including the Edison Electric Institute’s "Emergency Recovery Award" earlier this year, for its outstanding power restoration efforts after the severe thunderstorms and flooding that hit Houston in 2016.

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