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Keeping the power on more than 99.99% of the time is not as easy as flipping the switch — even if it can seem that way.

As assets like transformers and power poles age, they become less reliable and present greater risks to public safety and the environment. Many EPCOR electricity assets were installed during the 1970s boom, and will likely need to be replaced at the same time.

With this in mind, our Asset Management team analyzed data related to asset failures and outage records from 2004 to 2015. The outcome was an innovative risk-based solution that allows us to rank more than 120,000 electricity assets based on their likelihood to fail, and the public, environmental and financial consequences of their failure. This approach to managing aging assets recently earned us international recognition at the Bentley Year in Infrastructure Awards.

The asset rankings have helped us decide which equipment to replace before failures occur, minimizing the number of unplanned outages and the stress that type of outage has on the system. This ongoing work supports our continued achievement of strong reliability results — with power service interruptions from defective equipment decreasing by an average of 32% since the high of 2014.

​Ensuring reliable​​​ electricity service

 

Our electricity asset teams have also developed climate models and climate adaptation management plans to mitigate risks to reliability. With some assets lasting 35 to 60 years, we are making changes to equipment specifications today so they can meet future needs.

Following the introduction of the asset management program in 2015, the length of time the average customer is without power each year reached its lowest level in nearly 15 years.​

​Edmonton reliability

Minutes per year without power

 

Investing in relia​​bility for a growing Edmo​​​nton​​

Edmonton continues to grow at a rapid rat​e. To support these new customers, we invest about $57 million on expanding its distribution network each year. At the same time, our life-cycle replacement program helps to reduce the risk of outages to existing customers. Through this program, we implement an average of $84 million in upgrades to existing assets each year to replace aging or worn parts of the system.

We also work with the Alberta Electric System Operator and the Alberta Utilities Commission to help improve the transmission supply to growing Edmonton neighborhoods. Upgrades to the transmission grid reduce the risk of outages to the system by ensuring delivery of adequate energy supply.

Most recent transmission system upgrades include:

  • Adding 75 MW of electricity to the system with the Riverview substation to reliably support an ever-expanding southwest Edmonton. With this project, we installed 11 km of underground distribution lines below Anthony Henday Drive (Edmonton’s ring road) and under the North Saskatchewan River. 
  • Constructing 5 km of 72 kV aerial transmission line and supporting infrastructure as part of the Strathcona Transmission Line Upgrade.

Our crews are constructing 11 km of 72 kV aerial transmission line at two West Edmonton substations as part of the West Edmonton Transmission Upgrade Project. 

Improving our outage re​​sponse

Over the last five years, we have made automating the electricity system a priority to have better insight into the status of our equipment. This involved the installation of advanced metering infrastructure and the automation of key distribution and transmission assets, along with their communication systems. The results have dramatically improved the way we respond to power outages.​​​

The Outage Management System uses a digital model of Edmonton's distribution grid containing all EPCOR's assets (e.g., power line, transformers) and combines it with information received from the company's Advanced Metering Infrastructure. This offers visibility into the full scope of outages on the power grid, enabling a more rapid and focused response.

Previously, we learned of power outages when customers called about their power being out. A Power Trouble Crew would then patrol the area, and once they found the cause, repairs could begin. 

 

With automation, the advanced meters send a signal to the control room to let us know customers are affected by an outage. This data is combined with the system information to narrow down the location of the cause of the outage. This significantly reduces the time between when the outage is reported and when repairs can begin.

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Storm operations center

During weather events, such as major lightning or wind storms, EPCOR will activate its Storm Operations Center (SOC). The SOC helps teams to effectively deploy resources to restore power to Edmontonians as quickly and safely as possible.

 

During a fast-moving storm, the Outage Management System identifies circuits where power has been interrupted (grey) and pinpoints the source of the interruption (flags) allowing for a rapid and safe response.​