Unitil: Hurricane Sandy - Preparing for Hurricane Sandy with the best-in-class weather services

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Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. in late October 2012. Although it was never stronger than a Category 2 storm, Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, as measured by diameter. Severe rain, storm surge and wind conditions led to billions of dollars in damage throughout 24 U.S. states.

Challenges
Although utilities knew well in advance that a strong storm was coming, the exact landfall location and expected rainfall and wind speeds varied among forecasting services. The challenge for many utilities was to prepare responsibly for the impact on their service region, but not over-prepare in such a way that would drive up costs ultimately paid for by their customers.

Solution
Schneider Electric’s MxVision WeatherSentry Online® provides real-time weather conditions, as well as detailed, location-specific forecasts up to 15 days in advance. Its precipitation and temperature forecasts have been rated top in the industry for the past five years. Unitil relied on this expertise and accuracy to prepare appropriately for severe weather conditions.

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Unitil: Hurricane Sandy - Preparing for Hurricane Sandy with the best-in-class weather services

  1. 1. Unitil: Hurricane Sandy Preparing for Hurricane Sandy with the best-in-class weather services Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern U.S. in late October 2012. Although it was never stronger than a Category 2 storm, Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, as measured by diameter. Severe rain, storm surge and wind conditions led to billions of dollars in damage throughout 24 U.S. states. Challenges Although utilities knew well in advance that a strong storm was coming, the exact landfall location and expected rainfall and wind speeds varied among forecasting services. The challenge for many utilities was to prepare responsibly for the impact on their service region, but not over-prepare in such a way that would drive up costs ultimately paid for by their customers. Weather Decision Support Solutions PROJECT AT A GLANCE Project Type Operational weather solutions Location Hampton, New Hampshire Number of Electric Customers More than 101,000 Number of Natural Gas Customers Nearly 72,000 Applications Supports weather-related decisions for an accurate and responsible resource plan to prepare for Hurricane Sandy Equipment Installed MxVision WeatherSentry Online® CUSTOMER BENEFITS • 24-hour access to meteorological consulting services • Keeps employees safer Make the most of your energySM
  2. 2. ©2013SchneiderElectric.Allrightsreserved. January 2013 Unitil is a public utility holding company, headquartered in Hampton, N.H., that delivers natural gas and electricity throughout northern New England. Its affiliates serve more than 103,000 electric customers and nearly 70,000 natural gas customers. Unitil had relied on Schneider Electric’s top-rated weather forecasts for a number of years, and turned to it again as it prepared for Sandy’s landfall. Solution Schneider Electric’s MxVision WeatherSentry Online® provides real-time weather conditions, as well as detailed, location-specific forecasts up to 15 days in advance. Its precipitation and temperature forecasts have been rated top in the industry for the past five years. Unitil relied on this expertise and accuracy to prepare appropriately for severe weather conditions. Unitil has also worked closely with Schneider Electric to develop a unique rating system of Estimated Impact Indices (EII). The indices indicate the level of severe conditions predicted on a scale of 1-5, three days in advance of an event. The EII are based on 10 years of storm impact data related to Unitil’s service territory. Unitil provided the specific weather conditions to Schneider Electric that define the EII with “1” the least impact and “5” the worst impact to the electrical system. For example, 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts with leaves on the trees represent an EII of “3”, but the same winds with no leaves on the trees equals an EII of “2”. The rating system allows Unitil to quickly assess the potential severity of forecasted events several days in advance and procure the necessary resources to respond effectively. Additionally, Unitil was able to link regulatory cost recovery to the different EII (including preparatory costs) through a negotiated storm reserve fund. Along with the EII, a confidence level is assigned to each forecast to further help Unitil prioritize predictions. Ultimately, MxVision WeatherSentry Online and the EII helps Unitil reduce the length of weather-related outages by allowing the utility to better prepare for damage farther in advance. Finally, Unitil’s partnership with Schneider Electric provides the utility with 24-hour access to the company’s meteorological consulting services. “We call a forecaster at any time and learn why they’ve made the forecast they did. And if there’s a mismatch or discrepancy from what we are hearing, we can talk that through. It’s great that Schneider Electric has been so open to that kind of feedback,” said Richard Francazio, emergency management and compliance director at Unitil. Unitil relied on this suite of best-in-class weather services to prepare for the impact of Hurricane Sandy and formulate an accurate, responsible resource plan. The Bottom Line In addition to Schneider Electric’s predictions, Unitil monitored other publicly available forecasts, but none projected the conditions and wind speeds as accurately as Schneider Electric’s models. “It is possible to over-prepare for a storm,” explained Tom Murphy, environmental compliance and business continuity manager. “Some of the other models were predicting much worse conditions than Schneider Electric’s models, but we had higher confidence in Schneider Electric because of our experience with them and their level of forecast detail. By filtering some of the hype appropriately, we avoided over-preparing, which is ultimately a cost- benefit to our customers.” As a result, Unitil was able to procure the resources it needed to get customers back online as quickly as possible after the storm, including mobilizing 15 internal line crews, 92 contractor line crews, 37 contractor tree crews and 48 damage assessment crews, among others. “We had about 69,000 cumulative customers without power out of 103,000,” said Murphy. “Restoration took us about three days, which is what we expected. It all aligned with what the Schneider Electric forecast was telling us.” Weather Decision Support Solutions Schneider Electric USA, Inc. 9110 West Dodge Road, Omaha NE 68114 Telephone: 1-800-610-0777 Fax: 402-255-8125 www.schneider-electric.com/us Unitil: Hurricane Sandy

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