Business and residential electric customers in Bristol, Tennessee are experiencing shorter power outages thanks to recent upgrades to the city’s municipal fiber-optic network. And collectively, that represents annual savings of about $6 million for electric users, according to the CEO of the Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES):
In an opinion piece for the Bristol Herald Courier newspaper, BTES CEO Mike Browder, said a recent upgrade to the electric system, which uses the city’s fiber-optic network, has helped cut power outage time by 35 percent:
“Our goal is less than 60 minutes average outage time per year per customer. In 2015, we exceeded that goal, reducing our outage time to 34 minutes per customer.”
According to BTES' About Us page, customers who lose power can depend on the smart grid to alert the utility to any outages:
Those customers with fiber services to their homes have automatic power outage detection, meaning that they do not need to make a telephone call if their power goes out. In addition, the system provides automatic meter reading and theft detection.
Browder offered this example in his piece:
"BTES recently had an outage that caused half of The Pinnacle, including Bass Pro Shops and Belk, to lose power. Using the fiber optic system, the BTES electric system automatically opened one switch and closed three more in sequence while testing each section of line. All of The Pinnacle had service restored in less than one minute!"
Bristol’s Smart Network
Reducing outage time is among a number of benefits that Bristol's 26,000 residents and its local businesses are enjoying from the city’s municipal fiber network, which it launched in 2005. The city also uses the infrastructure for fast, reliable, affordable connectivity in the community.
Browder said BTES’s broadband division pays for most of the cost of the fiber system.
“The electric customers pay only a small portion and experience a much more reliable electric system with more than $6 million a year savings because of the fiber optic system and the way we use it. Through this system, BTES is able to read more than half of the electric meters. This system is able to detect a power outage the second it occurs. Each substation automatically reports data and problems at the speed of light, and resolves those problems — again, at the speed of light, helping to prevent many outages altogether.”
Browder also noted that the community's fiber-optic network is used to monitor its load managed water heater program. The program monitors and manages water temperature inside customers' water heaters, switching the appliances on an off automatically to save energy. The program cuts costs to BTES and customers to the tune of $1 million per year.
Other Cities Enjoy Smart Savings
Bristol is just one of a growing number of cities whose electric utilities benefit from their connection with the municipalities’ fiber usage and monitoring. For example, in Chattanooga, Tennessee; the EPB (Electric Power Board) held electric utility rates steady for four years because it was achieving considerable savings due to the municipal fiber network.
Morristown, also in Tennessee, has experienced significant savings in operational efficiencies and electricity consumption due to their fiber-optic enabled smart meter program.
You can learn more by listening to Chris's December 2012 conversation with Dr. Browder in episode #24 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.