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New System To Restore Power To San Diego Utility Customers Faster

Evening Edition

San Diego Gas and Electric has launched a new system. It's designed to quickly respond to power outages and restore customers' electricity faster than ever before.

Dennis Glow is tracking his utility crew's status and giving them permission to repair a leaky transformer. He's using new smart grid technology to speed up detection of power outages and restore customers electricity even before they call to complain about it.

"We've had people on scene to known outages because the smart meters had communicated that to us, prior to a customer even notifying us," said Daniel Zarogoza, the man in charge of SDG&E's Mission Control Center. It's a high security facility rarely seen by the public overlooking Mission Valley near Qualcomm Stadium. This is where the utilities power grid for more than 1 million customers is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

"Weather is the number one influence on a power system, if it's hot you have consumption that goes up," Zaragoza said. And strong gusty winds can cause power outages too. There are 28 operators at the control center and two meteorologists. They use advanced computer systems to track multiple outages, pinpoint their location and even remotely fix them without deploying a crew.

SDG&E has installed approximately 1.4 million smart meters throughout the county. They send remote alerts back to the control center within seconds of an outage. Previously, grid operators had to rely on customers to report a problem. If it happened late at night or in a remote location, it often delayed response time.

The utility used its remote control devices to power San Diego back up after the 2011 blackout. Zaragoza says this new technology should bolster its capabilities to respond more quickly during another widespread event.

"It gives us more specific information from our entire service territory to determine what areas are being affected and allow us to make decisions on where we need to prioritize to get customers back in service," he said.

The new system has been up for about a month, but it's too soon to say how much it has improved response time during an outage.

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