Smart Grid Tested and Proven During NorCal Earthquake

Posted by on September 9, 2014

Energy drives our lives and when the power goes off, customers want it back on – fast. Especially during a crisis, restoration is critical. It is for this reason and many more that Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) implemented a smart grid program, leveraging the Silver Spring standards-based IPv6 network, software and services, to serve its 5 million customers in northern and central California.

A few weeks ago, a significant 6.0 earthquake rocked PG&E territory in the San Francisco Bay Area and the smart grid automated response was put in to action. According to the SF Chronicle, “[f]ifteen minutes after the ground stopped shaking Sunday morning, a computer model at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spat out a prediction…The utility started deploying its crews, trucks fanning out across the Wine Country before dawn… In the end, roughly 70,000 businesses and homes lost power following Sunday’s early-morning earthquake near American Canyon. PG&E was able to restore electricity to almost all of them within 24 hours…” 

The biggest difference between the most recent quake and the last large Bay Area “Loma Prieta” earthquake in 1989, the article explains, is technology innovation. Nearly a week after the 1989 earthquake 55,000 customers were still without gas service. In the article, PG&E noted that the smart grid was a key enabler in being able to both respond and restore service quickly to its customers.

In opening remarks at the August 28 California Public Utilities Commission meeting, President Michael Peevey also praised PG&E’s efforts in response to the Napa earthquake, including giving credit to the utility’s SmartMeter™ program:

“There were all those homes and business residents and everything – all [have] smart meters – and that allowed the PG&E crews to go specifically to sites and get power restored for the vast majority – 97-98 % – in a much, much shorter period of time than it would have been a few years ago.  For that I think that not only was their response time and whole program and, as well as many others of course almost picture-perfect in execution, but the technology was a grade-A here…technology that this Commission supported.”

 Don Reeves is the EVP of Engineering and Managed Services for Silver Spring Networks