Local Government Energy Assurance Planning

Best Practices: Chicago, IL

Chicago's Electricity Outage Management System

Following a series of high-profile outages in the South Loop and Lakeview areas of Chicago in 1999, the City collaborated with ComEd, a division of Exelon, to embark on a plan to reinforce the electrical distribution system in the City and to provide clear, concise communications of system outages and vulnerabilities.

At the time, ComEd did not have a process in place to inform the City of power outages, the areas affected, or the timeframe for restoring services. City departments were unprepared to dispatch resources to help, and outages had a major effect on commercial and residential customers for an extended period of time.

Lessons Learned

Staff reorganization can affect the energy assurance planning (EAP) process, especially when EAP members take on other responsibilities.

New department affiliation and early retirements affected Chicago's planning team.

Including team members from varying managerial levels would have created a more stable and productive planning team over the long term.

In 2000, the City began receiving outage notifications directly from ComEd using the same paging apparatus that was in use by the utility. Over the years, the outage notification process continued to be refined and enhanced to the point that outages are now automatically transmitted via pagers and the Internet. Outage information includes:

Photo courtesy City of Chicago.
  • Feeder number (Chicago has 1,800 to 1,900 feeders).
  • Boundaries of the affected areas; this part is currently being enhanced to include a geographic information system (GIS) map of the areas, and is part of the work being done with LEAP support.
  • The voltage of the affected line(s).
  • The Wards affected.
  • Cause of the outage.

On receipt of an outage message, the city notifies the Alderman of each affected Ward at a 24-hour contact number and, with phone and paging, notifies city staff that may need to respond to the outage.

Chicago's outage management system now enables the city to know immediately the number of critical facilities in the outage area. These include airports, water pumping stations and hospitals. The list, updated in 2012, now totals about 1,700 facilities, about 10-12 percent of which are designated high priority.

In addition, when the utility reaches 95% of its projected peak capacity, Chicago officials receive real-time data on peak load. These notifications are an indicator of the level of stress that the electrical system is under so that the proper resources can be mobilized should a major outage or load curtailment occur.

Chicago is refining its energy assurance plan with LEAP support, and with the power outage notification system and the annually updated load curtailment plan, the city has taken major steps toward electricity energy assurance.

Best Practices
from Chicago

Establishing a real-time energy outage notification and tracking system enables city officials to be notified on a timely basis of every disruption so they can plan an appropriate response to each event. The city can also use the system to analyze the utility's infrastructure vulnerabilities and service performance.