Reliability Reporting for Utilities: Flexibility Matters

Reliability Reporting metrics are used by utilities and regulatory bodies to track customer service quality, monitor continuous improvement initiatives, and highlight chronic issues. The precise formulation of these metrics can vary substantially in practice. For example, many utilities report reliability statistics at the event level. Others roll their reporting up at the switching level instead.

Consequently, when considering a system to support Reliability Reporting, flexibility matters.

There are multiple approaches to reliability reporting, some more manual and time consuming than others. When utilities decide to invest in an off-the-shelf system to manage reliability and other reporting needs, it’s important to choose a customizable solution that can accommodate different definitions for different reporting metrics. In this blog, we look at why flexibility is a vital attribute to weigh when considering a reliability reporting solution.

How are reliability indices defined?

When evaluating utility reliability, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) makes use of standardized metrics as defined by The Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). The following indices issued by the IEEE are some of the most important:

  1. SAIDI: System Average Interruption Duration Index
  2. SAIFI: System Average Interruption Frequency Index
  3. CAIDI: Customer Average Interruption Duration Index
  4. CAIFI: Customer Average Interruption Frequency Index
  5. MAIDI: Momentary Average Interruption Duration Index
  6. MAIFI: Momentary Average Interruption Frequency Index

For a deeper look at these metrics, what they mean, how they are calculated, and when they are useful, please see our Guide to Utility Reliability Metrics here. It is important to understand, however, that while the IEEE provides standardized definitions of these metrics, they can vary substantially in practice.

Why do utility reliability reporting metrics vary in practice?

IEEE definitions provide some leeway in their precise calculation. For example, the IEEE defines momentary service interruptions as a “brief loss of power delivery.” Brief is typically defined as less than five minutes in length, but utilities and/or regulatory bodies may choose to implement a more rigorous standard. We have clients who utilize a shorter 1-minute standard to define brief versus sustained power interruption. There is no “right or wrong” method (unless a regulator says so), and the most useful one may depend on how a metric is being used.

Reliability reporting needs and practices may vary based on one or more factors including:

  1. Geographic Size and Service Population: different definitions may be appropriate for utilities dealing with large service populations (or small, dispersed, rural service populations).
  2. Regional Regulatory Requirements: different regulatory bodies may use different definitions for various reliability reporting metrics.
  3. Differing Preferences for Internal v. Regulatory Metrics: some utilities may prefer to use one definition for regulatory reporting, and another (probably more rigorous) that they feel is a better fit for internal strategy and stakeholder review.

This variation can be troublesome for utilities to manage, particularly because the limited solutions available for reliability reporting often feature a “one size fits all” approach with standardized metrics that cannot be customized. Without adequate capabilities for customizing reliability reporting metrics, these platforms can box a utility into definitions that simply do not match current reporting needs. If standardized reporting metrics don’t fit local regulatory requirements, a workaround may be required even for routine reliability reporting tasks. And the organization will have almost no flexibility to define its own metrics for internal use.

How can a flexible reliability reporting solution help?

These limitations are already problematic in the face of varied utility structures, geographies, jurisdictions, and operating goals, and we expect inflexible reporting solutions will only become more burdensome and inconvenient over time. As utilities face increasing competition and expanding consumer choice, the need to develop and enhance more fine-grained reliability metrics will continue to grow.

A flexible reliability reporting solution is one that allows the utility to refine its own reliability reporting metrics. This flexibility should include the ability to display metrics that are relevant to different reporting recipients (e.g. static regulatory board reports showing final data versus active reports showing outage performance to internal stakeholders in real time). Users should be able to easily filter metrics for analysis across different categories (e.g. segregating outages generated by Major Event Days). Finally, a flexible reporting solution should allow for the easy modification of metric definitions and calculations in the future, allowing the reporting solution to grow seamlessly alongside the sophistication of the utility’s reporting practices.

Learn More About HEXstream’s Flexible Reliability Reporting Solution

Utility360 is a utility analytics platform designed and built by HEXstream. It helps utilities solve some of their biggest data-related challenges, including the ability to align with their specific needs and fulfill the criteria for flexibility described above. With Utility360, reporting metrics can be custom defined, easily changed, and adapted to different end user needs.

In addition to this flexibility, Utility360 also offers powerful features for exploring reliability metrics in greater depth. Users can easily compare metrics across different time periods, drill down into detail about a particular outage, and filter data by events (such as specific storms/emergencies). The platform is highly configurable, allowing customers to conduct internal audits and corrections before finalizing the regulatory reporting.

Flexible reliability reporting is just one example of how Utility360 addresses some of the most common pain points encountered in utility analytics today. Our team has worked hand-in-hand with some of the biggest utilities in North America; that experience helped us fully appreciate the need for the Utility360 platform to be highly flexible and configurable in addition to having a data warehouse that supports an extensive array of real-time and historical Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) . You can learn more about Utility360 here. Or, for a broader look at how analytics can transform utility operations, please see our guide here.

HEXstream has the proven ability to deliver utility analytics solutions that are founded on enterprise-quality data infrastructure. We take pride in not only offering deep technical expertise, but extensive ground-level experience working in the utility industry. If you are interested in learning more about implementing a flexible solution for reliability reporting and beyond, please connect with our team.

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