Outsmarting storms


Technology to help predict where power outages will likely occur during severe weather events and proactively identify vegetation trouble spots that might interfere with powerlines is being progressively rolled out by Vector and IBM for the Auckland electricity network


The pilot, which is a New Zealand first, goes live this month and introduces two solutions to help Vector reduce the number and severity of power outages caused by severe weather and overgrowth of vegetation across Auckland.

Duncan Head, Vector’s Group Manager Information and Insights, said Vector is pleased to be partnering with IBM to introduce this ground-breaking new capability in New Zealand.

“This new pilot is going to further support Vector’s vision of creating a new energy future.  It will allow us to more accurately predict which areas will be most affected by individual storms, meaning we can proactively place our network crews in the right places during outages,” said Mr Head.

“Effective tree and vegetation management is critical to the performance of overhead lines.  Not only do trees touching power lines significantly affect supply to our customers, it is a serious safety concern for our crews and the public. This solution will help Vector identify issues before they happen and provide another opportunity to work with tree owners on how to remove the risk before it impacts the community,” said Mr Head.

For monitoring and managing vegetation encroaching on the distribution and transmission wires, IBM’s The Weather Company solution combines multiple data sources, like satellite imagery, and uses artificial intelligence to identify and visualise locations where vegetation might be a risk to the power lines.

Jamie Azzopardi, Australia and New Zealand Head of The Weather Company, an IBM Business, says this allows Vector to proactively deploy crews to manage specific vegetation in a more planned way to reduce the outage risk.

“In Auckland’s climate, vegetation can grow quickly, posing a threat to overhead power lines during storms, impacting homes, businesses and the safety of work crews and the community. By leveraging multiple data sources, we are able to create actionable insights so Vector can gain the upper hand on unruly trees, better plan for severe weather events, manage maintenance costs, and ultimately enhance the security of electricity supply across Auckland.”

The second solution will predict weather-induced outages.

By analysing previous storms and outages, and by combining those insights with weather forecasts that update every 15 minutes, the solution can proactively identify outage risks across the Vector network up to 72 hours in advance.

As the weather forecast is updated, the solution updates, supporting Vector’s existing response planning to look ahead to either reduce the risk of the outage, or ensure resources are ready to respond.

“Ultimately, we are confident this technology will make extreme weather events more manageable and less disruptive for our customers, who are at the forefront of everything we do at Vector,” said Mr Head.