The general session for day two at IUW 2019 was just as encaptivating as day one. Afdhel Aziz, one of the world’s leading experts in marketing innovation and the power of purpose, shared his thoughts on what it means to find the power of purpose in our work, and how we can use this to do good in the world. Passionate about brands and culture as forces for good, he is the co-author of the book ‘Good is the New Cool: Market Like You Give a Damn’, which set the foundation for his discussion about how purpose drives business and social impact.

Aziz left the crowd inspired to dig deep and analyze how we can unlock purpose in our businesses and ourselves. He emphasized these seven principles:

  • Learn your purpose
  • Find your allies
  • Think of people as citizens, not just consumers
  • Lead with the cool
  • Don’t advertise, solve problems
  • People are the new media
  • Back up the promise with the proof

During the general session, we also announced ConEd as the winner of the first inaugural Itron Innovator Award.

Similar to how Aziz affirmed the idea that businesses can be a force for good by balancing profit with the needs of consumers, the next session of the day focused on how we can use investments in technology to help communities in need during natural disasters.

Big Picture Session: Grid Modernization and Resiliency Amid Natural Disasters

One of the most engaging discussions at IUW was Tuesday’s Big Picture Session, which explored how grid modernization and resiliency are helping utilities and cities respond to natural disasters in ways they never have before. Industry expert Jennifer Runyon lead the compelling conversation, which gave the audience a chance to glean insights from a trifecta of industry experts, which included:

  • Michael Putt, director of smart grid innovation, Florida Power & Light (FPL)
  • Joe Vale, director of AMI operations, Duke Energy
  • Matt Smith, senior director of grid management, Itron

Since 1970, the number of disasters worldwide has more than quadrupled to around 400 a year, according to the United Nations. Just in 2018 alone, there were 14 natural disasters that cost more than $1 billion in restoration. Now, more than ever, utilities and cities need to be prepared to handle natural disasters.

Putt kicked off the conversation by providing real-world examples of natural disasters that impacted FPL’s operations. He recalled how much the utility learned from the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy. It led FPL to analyze how they deal with flooding in their system, which resulted in implementing flood mitigation technology, like flood monitors, while also stocking up on mobile equipment. During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, this technology helped FPL de-energize at the right time as the storm surged and helped lessen equipment failure.

Vale shared Duke Energy’s experience when they were heavily impacted by Hurricane Florence in September 2018 as well as Hurricane Michael in October 2018. From an AMI operations perspective, their communications infrastructure was hit hard. During Florence, 400 network communication devices went down, and during Michael, 260 devices went down. Duke Energy realized that its communications infrastructure was extremely tough and resilient, so as power was restored, the majority of devices came back online. Florence was a very long storm and within 4 to 5 days only 25 network communication devices were out.

The other big lesson they learned was that the utility is very dependent on its communications infrastructure and it is critical for the utility to communicate expectations to their customers. When they had 25 network communication devices down at the end of the storm, they realized there could be up to 25 million devices under the network that they were unable to communicate with. In AMI operations, they took this learning and changed how they communicate during storms. They are now monitoring as devices go down to find out which devices are critical for communications but may be a low priority from a power restoration perspective, which has allowed them to prioritize restoration efforts. During Hurricane Dorian, Duke Energy saw a lot of benefits from this approach as they were able to get more network devices back online faster.

Smith noted that storm recovery is a big driver in making sure Itron’s technologies, communications networks and partner products can really help utilities aid in disaster recovery. He said that Itron is seeing a lot of utilities deploy line sensors to not only pinpoint outages, but also for use in vegetation management and other disturbances on the line, which helps prioritize things like tree timing. Smith concluded by saying Itron has seen utilities step up their efforts to respond more quickly and more efficiently.

Resilience is key and today’s utility industry can connect millions of meters and smart devices that work together to help prepare, mitigate and recover from natural disasters —all while promoting the quality of life, safety and the well-being of citizens.

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The Itron Team