Grid Resiliency

One of the greatest threats to the power grid is weather. In addition to financial costs, there are also political, reputation and social risks, especially when the disruption is prolonged. We cannot prevent power outages, but we can take measures to make the grid more resilient and secure, improve recovery time when a disruption occurs, reduce the number of outages and lower the costs to customers.

One example of proactive reliability hardening efforts is AEP’s multimillion-dollar investment to inspect and maintain thousands of wooden power poles and underground electrical structures along with miles of overhead electrical lines.

One example of proactive reliability hardening efforts is AEP’s multimillion-dollar investment to inspect and maintain thousands of wooden power poles and underground electrical structures along with miles of overhead electrical lines.

With approximately 5 million wood poles across our system, approximately 3.3 million qualify for the program based on their age and wood preservative treatment type. It is expected to take at least 10 years to complete the work, with the oldest poles being inspected first. Poles that are found to be deteriorated are being replaced using our storm-hardening design criteria so the poles better withstand ice and wind. In 2016, approximately 305,000 poles were inspected, and nearly 23,000 of those were identified for replacement.

In addition to the pole program, the overhead line and underground facility inspection programs are designed to identify issues that present potential public safety concerns or likely causes of customer outages. AEP has approximately 186,600 miles of overhead distribution lines and 802,000 underground structures qualified for review. Our target is to inspect approximately 20 percent of these facilities per year.

Nationally, and within our service territories, hardening, reliability and grid modernization initiatives have garnered support from state utility commissions. This is critical to improving system reliability for customers.

Measuring Grid Modernization

AEP is among several other utilities participating in the Electric Power Research Institute’s Technical Assessment of Resiliency Metrics and Analytical Frameworks project. The project will examine resiliency planning to help utilities better plan and respond to disruptive events, and the project will provide a more consistent, effective way of talking to regulators and other stakeholders about resilience.

In another, three-year Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) resiliency project that concluded in 2015, utility participants evaluated options for strengthening the distribution system while providing our industry with tools and investment strategies to improve resiliency.

EPRI’s research ranged from identifying resiliency practices to documenting strategies such as storm restoration and vegetation management to applying modern technologies such as circuit automation. In addition, the research looked at the costs and benefits of placing overhead lines underground and developed a model to help prioritize resiliency investments.