Leveraging technology for improved reliability

The CableQ team has had a busy start to 2019! We have had the pleasure of attending, exhibiting and presenting at a number of events and trade-shows, including EDIST and DistribuTECH. These events have afforded us the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals to share best practices and push the envelope when it comes to innovation in the utility sector and beyond.

Keynote speakers and presenters at both conferences provided evidence that we are entering a “new era” for electric utilities. While the new opportunities, technologies and partnerships that will come with this are exciting, they still leave us with important questions. One of the biggest – how will technology improve reliability?

At CableQ and Envari, we know that technology can help improve reliability. As we continue to speak to utilities about how to manage their critical infrastructure – and specifically underground cables – we are offering technological solutions to the problem of reliability. With aging critical infrastructure, asset management, especially with respect to underground cables, has become a primary focus in the industry.

With much of Ontario’s underground cable being installed over 30 years ago, many utilities are confronting the fact that an extensive amount of underground cable has reached its ‘theoretical’ end-of-life. Outright replacement of this cable is not realistic. Veridian Connections, the fifth largest municipally owned electricity distributor in Ontario, experienced this first hand when it was faced with the staggering estimate of over $180 million to replace its “end-of-life” cable!

In the past, utilities employed a reactive-based approach of simply replacing cable when it failed. This is no longer a best practice or even feasible. This is why utilities are seeking out alternative methods of asset management, such as diagnostic testing and cable injection. In fact, it is estimated that over 40% of cables over 30 years old remain in good condition – so why replace them?

In Veridian’s case, by adopting the Non-Destructive Cable Testing offered by CableQ, the utility was able to determine that 62% of its cables slated for replacement were actually in fair condition. This allowed them to opt for cable rejuvenation rather than replacement and they realized a minimum savings of 71% – roughly $4.4 million dollars.

“Our previous approach was purely based on a statistical analysis, where we looked at the number of faults in a geographical area/cable length. Now we have added a Diagnostic Parameter Value to select the segments of cables to be addressed.”

Hocine Boudhar, Asset Management and Planning Technician, Veridian Connections.

Utilities are also turning to cable testing when completing their Distribution System Planning for OEB rate applications. Sioux Lookout Hydro Inc. (SLHI) leveraged the data they had received from testing when submitting their last major rate application in 2017 (for rates covering 2018-2022).

“With a small community in Northern Ontario that is dependent on a limited number of submarine and underground cables, the reliability of our infrastructure is critical, particularly in the winter time. We chose to leverage the testing provided by CableQ to gauge the condition of our most aged cable; testing showed that our submarine cables were actually in good condition but identified some of our residential cables as a concern. The data solidified our position that these cables required proactive replacement”

Deanne Kulchyski, President and CEO of Sioux Lookout Hydro Inc.

Both Veridian Connections and Sioux Lookhout Hydro are leveraging available technology to improve not only their asset management but their overall reliability.

One of the benefits of CableQ’s diagnostic testing is that it is non-destructive, which allows utilities to monitor cable health without damaging the cables.  In addition, the information provided by CableQ after testing not only indicates the condition of cables, but it helps utilities determine where to inject or replace a cable. With data from cable testing, asset managers are now better equipped to make informed decisions to prioritize and manage assets now and into the future. Better asset management means better reliability which is something the electric utilities need and their customers can appreciate.

Interested in learning more about our work with Veridian Connections? Download the case study here.