NZ utility partners with IBM to predict weather-related power cuts

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IBM has partnered with the New Zealand-based energy provider Vector Energy to help the utility better predict the impact of weather on outages.

Through its subsidiary The Weather Company, IBM has provided Vector with artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven analytics tools that it says will help the company drive down the number of weather-related outages, which it says account for 70% of all outages.

IBM has been working with Vector for the past 18 months on the system, a pilot of which went live in Auckland this October.

The analytics tools help in two keys areas vital for preventing outages. The first is vegetation management and the second is predicting where line failures are likely so that crews can be deployed quickly and effectively.

For vegetation management, IBM’s AI system analyzes aerial footage sourced from drones, airplanes or satellites to tell which power lines are at risk of being knocked out by tree branches brought down in a storm.

“Before the storms ever get there, we tell them, ‘Here’s where you should trim in advance.’ So that 12 months out, we can say where they should be trimming trees and vegetation and where the worst spots are,” said Robbie Berglund, a manager for energy and utilities at IBM.

The second technology solution predicts weather-induced outages by analyzing historical data from previous storms and outages, and combining the insights the analysis provides with weather forecasts that update every 15 minutes. Through this approach the tool can proactively identify outage risks across the utility’s network up to 72 hours in advance.

Duncan Head, Vector’s group manager for information and insights, said he was confident “this technology will make extreme weather events more manageable and less disruptive for our customers”.

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