courtesy of ‘Amber Wilkie Photography’
With the powerful summer storms over the last few weeks, several parts of DMV have been without power. The biggest outages occurred after the July 25th storms that left many Pepco customers without power for several days.
To prevent more outages of that scale, Pepco unveiled a $256.3m reliability plan that will be implemented over the next five years and help alleviate future concerns. Much of the plan (full PDF here) involves increasing the load capacity and substation improvements. Additionally, roughly 15 percent of that budget will be dedicated to “Enhanced Vegetation Management,” which may be the best euphemism in the world for yard work. Feel free to use it this weekend when you’re conquering your own backyard.
And of course only 5% will go to anything even remotely related to ‘smart grid’ style improvements.
The $15m in Distribution Automation is tiny and no amount of tree trimming and feeder undergrounding is going to make the grid any smarter. Pepco’s distribution system (and that of every other utility in the country) is based on the top of the line technology and design..from the 1950s.
The architectures of electric systems envisioned one-way, top-down power flows (Generating Station–>Transmission Lines–>Substation–>Distribution Wires–>Service Transformer–>Customer) There is no room to accomodate or multi-directional power flows because all of the existing mechanical switchgear is incapable of handling such flows. The digitally-enabled technologies do exist today, but utilities, as risk-averse as they are, continue to trim trees and bury cables instead of injecting the intelligence necessary to have a smarter grid.