San Diego Gas & Electric has launched an advanced Outage Management System (OMS) that will use new "smart grid" technology to speed up the detection of power outages and help utility personnel restore electricity to customers faster than ever before. With this achievement, SDG&E stands as one of the first utilities in the nation to adopt an outage management system of this magnitude and sophistication for its entire service territory.

The OMS uses new computer software that provides grid operators with real time information about the status of the electric network to help them restore outages quicker. The new software enhances situational awareness of the entire distribution system and allows SDG&E to know what's happening on the grid for immediate detection and swifter restoration of outages. SDG&E has integrated a Geographic Information System (GIS) into the new outage management system, which provides highly detailed geographical images and technical data about the electric grid. In addition to localized outages, the OMS will prove useful to effectively track multiple outages during large storms to ensure power is restored as soon as possible.

The OMS leverages data from approximately 1.4 million smart meters that SDG&E has successfully installed across the region. The smart meters send remote alerts back to the control room within seconds of an outage occurring in the surrounding neighborhood. Previously, grid operators often had to rely on customers to report outages over the phone, which could take time if the outage occurred late at night or in a remote location with few residents. By leveraging the technological flexibility of the smart meters, SDG&E will know immediately when an outage happens anywhere on the system and dispatch crews to make necessary and prompt repairs. The smart meters can also send a signal to let SDG&E know when power is back on.

In addition to smart meters, the new OMS uses other technology to bolster outage restoration times. SDG&E is continuing to install Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) devices throughout the electric system to enhance reliability overall. These "smart switches" employ wireless connections that allow remote control of switches and circuit breakers from a centralized control room. The SCADA switches can move power around problem areas and quickly restore service to many customers prior to dispatching crews to the field. The utility has installed SCADA systems on 98 percent of transmission lines and 70 percent of distribution lines, which provide electricity to local communities.

By integrating the capabilities of the smart meters, SCADA switches and GIS into one system, SDG&E will greatly improve situational awareness and electric grid reliability. SDG&E will realize other operational benefits as the system builds out in the future, including diagnostic information that details when maintenance is required on parts of the grid, which could fix some potential problems before an outage occurs.

Enhancing grid reliability is a core element of SDG&E's smart grid deployment plans, which calls for an overall investment of approximately $3.5 billion from 2006 through 2020 on more than 60 separate projects, from renewable energy integration to battery energy storage. Many of these smart grid projects and other efforts have enhanced reliability and helped SDG&E receive the ReliabilityOne award from PA Consulting Group for six years in a row for the Western region.