Improving network reliability with a capital efficient strategy

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Community-owned municipalities face the complex challenge of balancing a tight budget and maintaining high safety standards, all while providing customers with reliable service at affordable rates.

Our communities’ aging infrastructure cannot be replaced all at once. The need to develop capital-efficient strategies to maintain underground electrical reliability for short and long-term demands is on the rise. Suppliers need to partner with circuit owners to develop asset management programs, and make it easier to prioritize projects and optimize capital.

No electric utility ever wants their power to go off. The management of aging cable infrastructure is mainly centered on addressing faults and cable replacement. However, cable rejuvenation is a viable, and often ideal, option for electric utilities to consider. Cable rejuvenation is the technique of injecting fluid into the strands of medium-voltage power cable, modifying the chemistry of the insulation, and improving the AC breakdown strength to like new in a minimal amount of time. Much of the industry still believes cable rejuvenation is too good to be true; rejuvenating cable can restore it without tearing up the ground and surrounding area, while offering a 40-year warranty. The technology works, and has worked for decades. Early adopters of the patented approach have been very successful at keeping the power flowing to those who depend on it, across the U.S. and Canada.

One factor that is driving this adoption is favorable budget treatment of rejuvenation expenses. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has noted that a circuit owner may capitalize the cost of installing injection rehabilitation products, provided that the product is used to extend the useful life of its segments of URD cables beyond their original estimated useful lives. This is one of several opportunities available to utilities when budgeting asset management. More and more utilities are sharing their experiences with colleagues to create effective asset management programs.

Salt River Project is one example of a municipality leveraging the economics of cable rejuvenation. Rick Hudson, engineering supervisor at Salt River Project, notes, “We have a five-year break-even point on cable rejuvenation being a benefit cost-wise to SRP versus cable replacement. So once we’ve actually exceeded five years we were actually making money for SRP on our cable rejuvenation and we’ve definitely seen cables segments far exceed that five-year threshold. Since we adopted the Novinium practices we are seeing failure rates less than one percent.”

Community-owned utilities are looking for ways to enhance their infrastructure reliability and performance, while controlling expenses. It’s important that they talk to one another to share their experiences and strategies to ensure that they can continue to provide reliable electrical service as our nation’s appetite for electrical consumption continues to expand.

Novinium is working to create ongoing relationships with customers year to year, going beyond just reactive rejuvenation to proactive rejuvenation as a way of improving the health of aging cable before it goes bad. For instance, St. Charles Municipal Electric Utility implemented a rehabilitation program comprised of cable rejuvenation and replacement as the best method to improve reliability while maximizing their investment. Prior to this project, St. Charles recorded a total of 66 failures in the affected areas. In the first five years after completion, the utility experienced a 96% reduction in faults. Additionally, this approach saved the utility about two-

thirds of what they would have spent on replacement alone. To be proactive, St. Charles has expanded their rehabilitation program to include subdivisions that have never experienced a failure.

As circuit owners begin to implement their plan for the fiscal year, a capital-efficient strategy for cable rehabilitation can offer more flexibility for new projects, free up precious lineman resources, and allow more rehabilitation to be completed in that budget year. A shift to increase utility rejuvenation budgets will not only benefit in the short term, but achieve greater overall reliability and rehabilitate our nation’s aging infrastructure to the level of performance that life in the modern world demands.

Now is the time to evaluate your utility’s asset management plan and the amount of cable rehabilitation that you are able to achieve on your budget. Talk to a Novinium specialist to see how rejuvenation can reach your reliability goals in the most capital-efficient way.

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