Utilities recognized with Chartwell’s 2024 Outage Best Practices Awards

Commonwealth Edison and Entergy have taken the top honors in Chartwell’s Outage Best Practices Awards for 2024.

The awards recognize excellence among electric and gas utilities in the areas of Outage Operations and Outage Communications, as well as the new category of Emergency Management. This year’s winners showed a level of creativity and innovation that will inspire other utilities.

Award winners will discuss their initiatives during PowerUp: Chartwell’s Outage Conference, held June 3-5, 2024, in Orlando. All Best Practices Award winners will also be recognized during an awards luncheon on June 4.

The conference features sessions focused on outage-related issues facing the utility industry, including harnessing AI for outage communications and restoration, transforming the customer’s outage experience, improving storm response, and partnering with public safety and other organizations to address threats to the utility infrastructure. A special rate is available to attendees who register by April 26, 2024.


Each year, the judges, who are all members of Chartwell’s research team, are charged with the difficult task of selecting the best entries. This year’s winners are:

Outage Operations

  • Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) received the Gold Outage Operations Award for its Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Program, which utilizes a drone fleet with real-time data sharing and enhanced operational capabilities to serve the utility space. The drone fleet, which consists of more than 75 aircraft and 51 pilots, employs advanced processes such as image analytics for damage assessment, live streaming to expedite situational awareness, and proactive strategies such as pre-emptive substation snow clearing. The UAS Program also offers an opportunity for educational outreach, providing students with interactive drone experiences to ignite interest in STEM fields.
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) earned the Silver Outage Operations Award for its Storm Response Team initiative, which drove a comprehensive portfolio of improvements across the enterprise. After an unprecedented series of storms in late 2022 and early 2023, SMUD realized the need to improve its processes to meet rising customer expectations if this magnitude of storm were experienced again. SMUD’s Executive team launched a “Storm Response Team,” led by the Chief Operating Officer, with director-level representation from multiple departments. The team identified and prioritized needs, and then launched a comprehensive portfolio of improvements representing the largest operational excellence initiative for SMUD.
  • ComEd earned the Bronze Outage Operations Award for its Area Restoration Management Teams, a new approach to managing restoration efforts in hard-hit regions. Area Restoration Management Teams are specially trained storm teams deployed to a hard-hit area where they take command and control, which allows for quick restoration, ticket volume reduction at dispatch centers, and ensures crews are focused and productive, and ETRs are more accurate. Recently, the teams have been part of mutual assistance deployments, helping host utilities at their direction while maintaining core functions and structure.


Outage Communications

  • Entergy earned the Gold Outage Communications Award for its improvements to the customer’s outage experience, which added efficiencies, increased customer reach, and improved customer and employee satisfaction. In late 2022, Entergy identified four key parts of the outage communications process to streamline that would significantly improve the customer experience. Nine months later, these efforts produced greater efficiencies, including reducing message cycle times by 82%, increasing customer reach by 72%, and improving customer and employee satisfaction.
  • Consumers Energy received the Silver Outage Communications Award for its AutoETR program, which has saved outage crews and dispatch hundreds of thousands of hours assessing ETRs while reducing ETR publication time. AutoETR utilizes a custom machine learning prediction model that has saved outage crews and dispatch hundreds of thousands of hours assessing ETRs and reduced overall ETR publication time. Since its launch, continuous improvement has led to an entire ETR team being assembled, and the development of new tools that allow for precise control over ETRs and messaging sent to customers by putting up guiderails for AutoETR predictions. Customers now receive less congested communication about their restoration time due to the boundaries enabled in the model. Additionally, the accuracy of ETRs has increased from below 50% up to nearly 90%.
  • Snohomish County Public Utility District (SnoPUD) earned the Bronze Outage Communications Award for its Outage Alert System, which offers an in-house solution that integrates Chartwell’s best practices and meets customers where they are. In the 2022-23 storm season, more than 60% of SnoPUD’s customers experienced a power loss due to a series of intense winter storms. Staff and customers recognized that change was needed, and in over the next year SnoPUD’s Outage Alerts Team collaborated with workgroups across the utility to implement an in-house outage alert system. This required the product team to adapt to feedback from customers and implement iterative solutions that made the tool increasingly more meaningful to customers.
  • Nova Scotia Power was recognized with an Honorable Mention for adapting its storm communications to Nova Scotia’s changing weather. Nova Scotia has recently experienced an increase in extreme weather, including wind gusts over 80 km per hour that bring an increased risk of debris coming into contact with equipment, resulting in outages. By developing an innovative storm communications strategy rooted in customer insights, Nova Scotia Power is successfully reaching customers with the right message, at the right time, through the most effective channels.


Emergency Management

  • ComEd earned the Gold Emergency Management Award for Operation Power Play, a statewide event which brought together public and private agencies to prepare for and respond to simulated disasters. In 2023, ComEd launched exercises designed to test scenarios and prepare for catastrophic events. One offering was the substation exercise, which was developed in response to events in which substations have been attacked by actors seeking to disrupt the grid. That exercise brought together ComEd, Chicago Police, Chicago Fire, and the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications, and it demonstrated how agencies can work together to respond in the event of an active threat and/or physical damage to a substation.
  • Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) received the Silver Emergency Management Award for its response to Winter Storm Gerri in January of this year. OPPD mobilized to prepare for anticipated conditions several days prior to the expected event to ready themselves and their customers for what was to come. With both a Weather Advisory and Resource Advisory in effect, OPPD and its employees began to mobilize and form action plans to deal with the impending weather and associated outcomes. As a result, OPPD began proactive conversations several days prior to that weekend to mobilize efforts between many internal groups to not only gauge impact but ready themselves and their customers for what was to come.
  • San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) earned the Bronze Emergency Management Award for its Partner Portal, which offers a centralized location for emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and reporting for SDG&E’s Public Safety Partners. The portal is designed to communicate with partners and provide situational awareness in a timely, accurate, and efficient manner on the web or via Apple or Android apps.


If you have any questions about the awards or the upcoming conference, please email Keith Pierce, Senior Research Manager.



Based in Atlanta, Chartwell, Inc. is a specialized information provider for the utility industry. We provide strategic research and facilitate issue-targeted forums for collaboration among industry peers. Our wide range of services ensures that our members have access to the best, most timely information available to make their business decisions. For more information, visit www.staging.chartwellinc.com.