APTP Articles

Worker Migration Could Strain Rural Power Reliability and Resilience

Society is shifting to the post-COVID “new normal,” and many businesses will continue to have employees working from home–some indefinitely. This is causing businesses to change how they operate. Some businesses are also rethinking how they hire, and many are pursuing talent from geographic locations that otherwise would not have been considered for the job. 

These trends will likely prompt more professionals to move from cities to rural areas, taking with them the expectation of reliable power. This increased level of demand in rural areas will make advanced spur protection strategies more critical to help improve the resiliency of the grid and the reliability of work-from-home communication systems for these new, rurally based professionals. 

Shifting Reliability Expectations

Rural communities are known to experience more outages than their urban counterparts because of less redundancy and fewer network interconnections. This is predominantly because of the long spur lines that connect rural power users to their generation sources. The exposure and length of these lines leave them susceptible to outages.

Conventional protection strategies require a line crew to drive to the fault and manually repair the line, resulting in an outage that often lasts for multiple hours. Although rural residents traditionally experience more outages than their urban counterparts, they typically have been satisfied with their power reliability. As the region sees increased migration to the country, a newfound dissatisfaction with existing rural power reliability will quickly become apparent. 

Planning for the change

Rural utilities can begin to address these reliability expectations by monitoring their existing residential trends and planning system-improvement strategies accordingly. Utilities serving rural areas must continually focus on making grid improvements to ensure all aspects of their system are protected. More advanced solutions are available to help utilities navigate this grid transformation and manage changing customer expectations. 

Advanced reclosers automatically return power when the cause of temporary faults, such as a tree branch touching the line, clears on its own. Using automated reclosers speeds power restoration and avoids long-distance travel for line crews to replace single-use fuses. Advanced system upgrades on spur lines enable utilities to quickly improve grid reliability for their worst-served customers while simultaneously saving on O&M costs.

Comprehensive system changes can take time, which is why utilities must begin prioritising these system upgrades now. 

By Jason Lander, Vice President, EMEA & Asia Pacific