The headline for the 13th Annual Marcus Evans Outage Response & Restoration Management Conference in San Antoinio last week was "Accelerating Restoration Performance through Enhanced Mutual Assistance, Damage Assessment and Emergency Management Efforts." The billing of the conference lived up to the headline, as the overwhelming focal point of the presentations delivered was on restoration management in emergency scenarios.
The previous 12 months had no shortage of natural disasters and weather patterns that resulted in the loss of power for extended periods of time for tens of millions of people across North America. Depending on the source, Superstorm Sandy from 2012 ranks either 2nd or 3rd all time of the most expensive hurricanes to impact the United States.
- Katrina (2005) - $47.424 Billion
- Andrew (1992) - $23.349 Billion
- Sandy (2012) - $18.750 Billion
- Ike (2008) - $13.283 Billion
- Wilma (2005) - $11.885 Billion
- Charley (2004) - $8.912 Billion
- Ivan (2005) - $8.476 Billion
- Hugo (1989) - $6.957 Billion
- Rita (2005) - $6.493 Billion
- Frances (2004) - $5.478 Billion
For this reason, it was no surprise to hear first hand accounts on the restoration efforts of utilities in the Northeast. National Grid kicked off the conference with Glen Aichinger discussing the issues they faced with regulatory requirements and increasing political pressures during the restoration after Sandy. PSE&G discussed lessons learned and the Energy Strong proposal to improve the electrical infrastructure in New Jersey as a result of the storm impact.
Not every utility, municipality or co-op was impacted by the damaging forces of Mother Nature to their systems, but these utilities were part of the restoration efforts through the mutual assistance they supplied. Vince Featherly from Salt River Project and Steve Dettmer of PNM represented "sending" company viewpoints and discussed the challenges they faced, including ensuring the quality of service in their own territory while many of their crews were in the Northeast for weeks.
Matt Wells from Colorado Springs wrapped up the conference on Thursday with a review of the forest fires that scorched his service territory in each of the last two summers, along with the flood conditions from September.
Duke Energy, Alabama Power, ComEd, Florida Power & Light and discussed other "process focused" presentations on how they prepare in advance for storms with enterprise wide drills and restoration plans based on their previous lessons learned.
There were also some quality presentations on utility automation, headlined by the integration of smart meters with outage management systems. Both Mark Carpenter of Oncor, and Patricia Armbruster of DTE Energy delivered results focused presentations where they each have leveraged AMI to respond quicker, restore power faster and capitalize on their meter investments.
As I noted in my preview of this conference, the strength lies in the size. With roughly 250 attendees that are all focused on outage management, it provides a perfect recipe to interact with the speakers, utilities and vendors in an intimate environment. The lunches, breaks and tech expo room were not over crowded and enabled ample access to industry leading utilities focused on storm planning and emergency response. While some may argue that from a cost perspective and sheer number of vendors that a utility can seek out, that there is more value in DistribuTECH, there is something unique about this Marcus Evans conference that keeps people coming back year after year. From a personal perspective, I specifically enjoy this conference because it is focused on my passion of outage management, and I know that I will be back again in 2014 to see how the industry continues to improve their response and restoration techniques to combat the inevitable natural disasters.