With Arcos, Virginia co-op looks to cut power outage length

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Arcos LLC is implementing its Arcos Callout and Scheduling Suite to help Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) expedite electric service restoration, focus on safety and reduce the utility’s system average interruption duration index (SAIDI), which is the total annual duration of outage interruptions per customer.

“The Arcos software will automatically find and contact our employees. Instead of spending their valuable time on the phone, our system operators will be able to activate Arcos with only a few clicks and then focus on critical tasks such as high-voltage switching or coordinating restoration work with service technicians in the field,” says Dan Swingle, vice president of System Operations for NOVEC. “We’re hoping that Arcos will reduce our service restoration times, which will also help us meet our SAIDI goal.”

NOVEC’s 2016 SAIDI was 45.79 minutes, calculated without outages related to major events.

The utility’s five-year average SAIDI, excluding major events, is 49.56 minutes. J. D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction study placed NOVEC second among the 138 largest electric utilities in the nation. NOVEC also ranked second in Power Quality and Reliability, the largest contributor to overall customer satisfaction, according to the study.

“We always look for cost-effective ways to improve performance in the operations division, but at our high level of achievement, it’s increasingly difficult to reduce SAIDI. We expect Arcos to give us an edge through automation,” adds Swingle. “If an automated callout process gets our people to work faster, then we’ll be able to restore power faster.”

NOVEC has been using a labor-intensive process to monitor minimum callout requirements for about 215 union employees. Through its partnership with Arcos, the Cooperative expects to reduce the amount of staff time it takes to initiate callouts and track responses. According to Swingle, NOVEC administrators, on average, spend an hour per day documenting callouts; sometimes that climbs to three or four hours during a busy event.

“We’ve also had major events that required operators to spend 9 to 10 hours making callouts, which diverted their focus from their primary job - restoring power to NOVEC customers,” says Swingle.

With Arcos, operators and staff can concentrate solely on service and safety, instead of tallying callout requirements and resolving complaints, which can easily require an hour per incident. Through automation of the crew assembly and deployment process, NOVEC expects to improve overall outage response and, thereby, reduce service restoration times, while maintaining its high employee safety standards.

The data provided by the Arcos system will also enable final event reports to be produced quickly and accurately. In addition to its union workforce, NOVEC plans to add another 107 employees to the Arcos system. This will enable system operators to reach all or specific groups of employees with alerts, news or requests for assistance.

“Comparing the cost of Arcos to what we’ve spent administratively on manual callouts clearly justified the investment in the Arcos system,” adds Swingle.

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