Key Takeaways from PowerUp, Chartwell’s Outage Conference

By Russ Henderson, Senior Research Manager –

We were so glad to see so many of you at our first-ever virtual event, Chartwell’s PowerUp Outage Conference, last week! Here are a few quick takeaways from the conference:

Data integration and analytics are now prevalent

Not so long ago, only a few utilities were leveraging systems integration and advanced analytics to improve outage communications and aid more efficient restoration. New technology and know-how are now bringing these to a larger number of utilities.

Consumers Energy leveraged machine learning to develop more accurate estimated times of restoration with greatly reduced human intervention.

Con Edison built a customer dashboard that brings together information from various sources, enabling insights that otherwise would not have been possible.

Ameren built an Outage Communications Hub between grid systems and communications platforms to ensure that customer-facing messages were consistent.

Hydro One now uses weather analytics and process improvements to more efficiently deploy resources across its service territory. The work has measurably increased both service reliability and customer satisfaction.

Employee engagement is becoming fundamental to developing tools

Utility leaders spent more than a decade working to convince foremen and their crews that, while they are working to restore power, they must also take the time to communicate about what they are doing. Crews have asked: “Do you want me to fix it or talk about it?” Leaders have answered: “Yes.”

Still, utilities continue to say that getting crews to communicate requires a constant effort that is frustrating for everyone.

Utility leaders today increasingly look to technology, rather than training and incentives, to solve the field communications dilemma.

Last year, Southern California Edison took home our Gold Outage Communications Best Practices Award, in part for its Customer Crew Connect (C3) mobile app. The app was developed hand-in-hand with foremen and field crews and integrated both outage communications and outage restoration priorities.

Likewise, Xcel Energy is now developing a similar app in a similar way, working intimately with employees to ensure that the technology follows operational processes rather than trying to arbitrarily adapt processes to the technology.

Continuous improvement is key

In the past, utilities saw each outage communications improvement initiative as a one-off project. Taryn Sims Vice President of Marketing, Insights & Customer Engagement at Duke, was one of the many prominent voices at PowerUp who said that the process of improvement is now continuous. It is vital to always listen to customers as well as all internal and external stakeholders then act on their feedback, putting together Agile scrum teams to build and enhance outage communications and restoration tools.

We enjoyed exploring all the latest and greatest outage-related developments in the industry, and we look forward to doing it again at our 15th annual PowerUp Outage Conference June 6-9 in New Olreans!

If you would like to know more about the conference, or about Chartwell’s utilities-only peer group, the Outage Communications Leadership Council, feel free to contact me.