News & Resources

25 Jan 2019

The Cost of a Hurricane

by: Alex Fitch

$2.5 Billion.

That’s the cost of damage sustained by a major southeastern utility from just two hurricanes in 2017. You could buy both of Florida’s MLB teams for less. Hurricane Irma alone left more than 6.7 million people without power. Those numbers helped Irma one of the most expensive storms in history. Costs and outages like that are a significant reason that utilities prioritize storm hardening. More frequent storms and aging infrastructure mean utilities can no longer afford to ignore the threat of hurricane damage.

Storm Hardening aims to prevent these levels of damage from happening again by making the grid more resilient. As early as 2013, the Federal Government began recommending utilities harden their networks against increasingly severe storms. A report issued by the Executive Office of the President stated:

Grid resilience is increasingly important as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of severe weather. Greenhouse gas emissions are elevating air and water temperatures around the world. Scientific research predicts more severe hurricanes, winter storms, heat waves, floods and other extreme weather events being among the changes in climate induced by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses.

With federal directives arriving and shocks to the system like Irma coming more and more frequently, capital dollars allocated for storm hardening are on the rise. The first thing that comes to many people’s minds in protecting the grid from storms is to move power lines underground. Easier said than paid for. According to a report by the Edison Electric Institute, the cost to convert overhead power lines to underground could be $6 million per mile in a rural area. In an urban environment, double that. Some utility customers may be willing to accept a 10%, maybe 15% increase in rates to protect themselves from hurricane-related outages, but no one is willing to pay the minimum 100% rate increase needed for undergrounding.

Storm Hardening

So the requirement in many cases is to put those capital dollars towards storm hardening our existing overhead grid. Many utilities are running into a new kind of problem as they look at where to spend those dollars best. Simply put, they need to know the state of their poles. The first step of any well-executed storm hardening initiative is to find out which poles are at risk of failure. That means locating them, measuring them, and running a full pole load or structural analysis.

Right around this time in their analysis, many utilities discover other problems. Either they are getting bad data from the field, or it is becoming too expensive to collect and process all of it, potentially both. That leaves utility executives with a heap of bad data to inform decisions. They’re not alone, Forbes Insights and KPMG 2016 Global CEO Outlook, found that 84% of CEOs are concerned about the quality of the data they’re basing their decisions on.

Where IKE Comes In

IKE Analyze is here to make sure bad data never gets in the way of making decisions about where to spend money on storm hardening.

By offering a unique, turnkey solution that uses IKE’s advanced field tools and tested pole expertise in a revolutionary way, IKE can provide unparalleled data quality faster than anyone. We call it the IKE Record. The IKE Record of a utility pole gives utilities full knowledge of exactly where their grid needs hardening. No more guesswork, and no more wasted dollars, and hopefully no more Irma’s. Hurricanes may be increasing, but utilities now have the option to make their infrastructure more resilient by using IKE Analyze to make smarter decisions. Get in touch to hear more about how IKE Analyze can help.

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