How Lateral Protection Can Help Meet Regulatory Demands

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Power reliability is paramount to how our society operates today. Whether drafting an email or streaming the latest movie hit, our digital society is increasingly dependent on consistent and constant power delivery—no matter where customers are on the grid.

As people’s daily lives have changed, so have their expectations around reliability. But for most households, reliability has not improved as quickly as needed. In the U.S., the System Average Interruption Duration Index utility-performance metric worsened at a rate of approximately 2.2 minutes every year between 2013 and 2020, a total increase of 19 percent over the period.

With people spending more time at home, power is increasingly being consumed at the grid edge versus centralized use in commercial zones. This change magnifies reliability gaps within the distribution system, and customers are demanding change.

In response, regulators are placing a greater focus on customer-centric metrics to meet these rising expectations. One metric gaining steam is Customers Experiencing Multiple Interruptions (CEMI) because it paints a more complete picture of system performance and tracks households with the worst experiences.

Countries such as Australia, England, and Canada track CEMI in some capacity. And nearly two-dozen U.S. states do as well, a 57 percent increase from 2018. Regulators recognize developing customer-centric metrics requires more monitoring and data collection compared to traditional metrics. By incentivizing utilities to track these figures and use them as part of rate-case submissions, regulators can support utilities to serve their customers better.

Utilities can meet these growing improvement demands from regulators and customers by investing in end-to-end lateral protection.

Over the past decade, feeders received significant investment attention because they serve most customers. As feeders improved, laterals did not keep pace despite new technology upgrades. And with 80 percent of overhead faults occurring on these lines, improving lateral performance would have a positive impact on a utility’s bottom line, reliability metrics, and overall customer satisfaction.

The good news for utilities is proven technology already exists that can satisfy regulators and customers. Fault-testing devices can be deployed on laterals throughout the grid and ensure every household experiences greater reliability. They achieve this by testing whether faults are temporary in nature and automatically restoring power if they are, eliminating unnecessary sustained outages and increasing reliability scores. These devices are also configurable and fit into existing protection settings, enabling grid segmentation to keep the power on for more customers when permanent outages occur.

With a changing world comes an excellent opportunity to modernize the grid and develop new ways to measure success. Advanced lateral-protection solutions are available today to transform reliability at the grid edge and improve the overall customer experience.


Chris Watts

Publication Date

September 22, 2022