Case Study

National Grid and Alabama Power shifted to condition-based trim cycles

AiDash

 

Netze BW realizes high accuracy with satellite and AI vegetation assessments

National Grid and Alabama Power faced similar headwinds and found themselves looking for better ways to manage their trim cycles. 

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national grid and alabama power case study
  • Company: National Grid and Alabama Power
  • Location: United States
  • Solution: Intelligent Vegetation Management System (IVMS)

HIGHLIGHTS

Shift from time-based to condition-based trim cycles

Ability to create multi-year trim plans

Improved the overall customer experience

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CHALLENGE

National Grid and Alabama Power both needed a better way to prioritize trim maintenance on their diverse lines. 

For two utilities that serve vastly different geological territories, National Grid and Alabama Power faced similar headwinds and found themselves looking for better ways to manage their trim cycles.

National Grid serves 20 million people with their T&D operations in upstate New York and Massachusetts, and they have transmission lines in those states, plus Vermont and New Hampshire. Alabama Power, meanwhile, has 1.5 million customers throughout much of Alabama, with approximately 70,000 miles of overhead distribution lines and 11,000 miles of transmission lines across a 44,500 square mile territory.

National Grid’s biggest challenges emerged in 2020, when a number of back-to-back storms, specifically in their Massachusetts jurisdiction, led to one of the worst SAIDI/SAIFI performances the company had ever had. They were also deferring miles and circuits off of their work plan because costs were increasing at double-digit percentage rates. 

Alabama Power faced similar challenges. They also have the complicated factor that warm water vapor from the Gulf of Mexico creates a long growing season and a lot of biodiversity in their service area. 

Both utilities struggled to develop a satisfactory average time-based trim cycle, and both looked to technological solutions for help.

“What I like about the condition-based approach is having that snapshot of the system, and understanding what the condition of the system is, and identifying where you’ve got to do the work. Because on a time-based approach, frankly, you're pruning stuff you don't need to prune.”
bertram stewart
Bertram Stewart
Manager, Vegetation Strategy

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SOLUTION

They both found new and more efficient approaches to their vegetation management by using AiDash Intelligent Vegetation Management System™ (IVMS)

National Grid took a calculated, careful approach to finding the right technology and provider. They reached out to a number of vendors, and in 2020, they did a months-long proof of concept with AiDash Intelligent Vegetation Management System™ (IVMS).

Instead of focusing on only a snippet of their network, as is often SOP with a proof of concept, in this case National Grid applied AIDash IVMS to all of Massachusetts. They took such a wide approach because they wanted to get a real-world sense of system-wide performance. After the proof of concept was complete, they had an actionable work plan to follow in the next fiscal year on their entire system in Massachusetts.

National Grid used a combination of AiDash IVMS with in-house end-to-end vegetation management software and some performance dashboards they were already using. They also benefited from early buy-in from company leadership, who made sure there were project managers and engineers available. And they brought in a consultant group to help them lay out the minimum viable product (MVP) for moving forward with their pivot to a condition-based approach to vegetation management.

In the past few years, National Grid had to cut back on the number of line miles in their trim program. But when they used AiDash IVMS, they ran the program unconstrained, so they’d get a clearer sense of the true output, to levelize their workload and maintain consistency in their tree crew resources.

For their part, Alabama Power developed a prioritization matrix to inform their trim plans and eventually began incorporating insights from satellites and AI, too. They factored in data like number of customers impacted, vegetation management-related reliability stats, and years since last trim. But it wasn’t sufficient for them, because reliability is a lagging indicator that tells you only when the customer has already been impacted. 

They wanted to do better than that, so they started looking into how they could do a true condition-based program. 

They assessed the available technology solutions by looking at what fit their needs best, rather than getting lost in the lists of pros and cons of each. Then they took the time to conduct 2 pilot programs and concluded that a satellite-based tool was ideal for them.

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RESULT

They’re both now better able to plan ahead with a condition-based approach and balance their costs and resources, creating consistency in their work and budgets.

With a condition-based approach, facilitated by AiDash IVMS, National Grid knows where to prune and when. Although in the past, they scheduled work plans and vendors just a year in advance, they’re now able to take a multi-year approach using AiDash IVMS.

Although cost improvement was a factor, they were also focused on serving their customers by reducing interruptions to service.

Some benefits and results National Grid experienced include a 3% improvement in SAIDI/SAIFI at the system level, the ability to schedule vegetation management work on a multi-year schedule, and an almost 85% of clearance distances per span aligned with what AiDash IVMS identified.

When Alabama Power completed the process for creating their 2024 trim plans, they started off with their normal prioritization. But after bringing AiDash IVMS output into the process, they moved 114 segments out of their plan. 

They replaced those 114 segments with 51 segments, but in total that reflected a 200-mile reduction in what needed to be trimmed. And now, Alabama Power has been able to move from strictly feeder-based segmentation to a segment-based program. This enables them to focus on addressing the worst segments on their system.

Alabama Power found that internal buy-in was important part of this success. Their arborists got excited about incorporating technology and developing new ways of thinking about their work. They’ve even begun championing AiDash IVMS within the company. 

All that feeds into Alabama Power’s ability to keep resources stable. They’re going to be able to look at growth rate by segment, which allows them to budget years ahead. And, of course, improve the overall customer experience.

To learn more about how National Grid and Alabama Power used AiDash IVMS to improve their customer experience through AI-powered weather and incident forecasting, read this blog post.

Or get more information about AiDash Intelligent Vegetation Management System™ (IVMS) here.

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About AiDash
AiDash is an AI-first vertical SaaS company on a mission to transform operations, maintenance, and sustainability in industries with geographically distributed assets by using satellites and AI at scale. With access to a continual, near-real-time stream of critical data, utilities, energy, transportation, water and wastewater, and other core industries can make more informed decisions and build optimized long-term plans, all while reducing costs, improving reliability, and achieving sustainability goals. To learn more about how AiDash is helping core industries become more resilient, efficient, and sustainable, visit www.aidash.com.

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