Regulatory Pressures and Utility Vegetation Management

Regulatory Pressures and Utility Vegetation Management

You might think that when a power line and transmission lines are in proximity to trees, they can co-exist. Well, sadly, that's not always the case. Trees have become the number one cause of electrical outages and property damage. You need to prevent trees from causing electrical discharge and power outages. Hence, it becomes very important to understand regulatory pressures and utility vegetation management. You need to realize that there is potential for damage if proper precautions are not taken. It is vital to long-term sustainability. In 2020 alone, nearly 10.12 million acres of land were burned by 59,000 wildfires. Wildfires can easily be started by trees coming into contact with power lines.

What is Vegetation Management for Utilities?

The most significant operational and expense for utilities is frequent vegetation management. There is enormous internal and external pressure to achieve cost savings in this area. You will require a crew to manually look at the vegetation that needs pruning, trimming, or removal. This work, rightly, has very high safety standards. Therefore, it becomes a complex task with higher costs. However, it is very important for public and environmental safety.

What are the Vegetation Management Challenges?

Vegetation management programs are not straightforward to plan or implement and have their own specific challenges.

Large Coverage Areas

A lot of utility companies, as well as electric companies, have very significant areas of land under their management. This covered area can have a wide variety of vegetation. It would help if you kept this in check. Schedule regular planned maintenance - this will fall under operational expense. It can be followed by pruning, mowing, felling trees, aerial trimming, and so much more. You can experiment with tools for managing tree growth and herbicides.

However, all of this isn't easy to cover a vast majority of areas.

Limited Resources

Recruitment and retention can be an issue in utility vegetation management. According to a survey conducted in 2019, workers are leaving the industry causing a recruitment and retention challenge. That is because of the increase in the cost of living coupled with base wage minimums and poor electric utilities. Vegetation management is not at all inexpensive. There are nearly 6 to 8 billion dollars spent per year clearing up vegetation. Almost all the funds are spent on third-party suppliers. All of this can make it difficult for you to navigate vegetation management properly.

Weather Threats Have Become More Frequent

According to data collection, wildfires, hurricanes, and tsunamis are increasingly common. You may have noticed that they have become increasingly severe as well, over the years. There are massive drought-driven wildfires, like those in California and Australia, which become international news. Even in mild weather, tree branches can threaten power lines and risk potentially catastrophic outcomes. As the climate continues to change, these risks increase. That puts a lot of pressure on you to keep professional vegetation performance management. The safety of the public should be your topmost priority over program performance.

What are the Different Types of Vegetation Management Work?

Now, you must be wondering how you can lend a hand to help. There are various types of vegetation management programs. Here's a list of 4 to help you get started.

Hazardous Tree Removal

Whenever a tree is unhealthy and can fall on a powerline, you should remove it. That will prevent a major disaster in the future.

Pruning of Trees

Maintaining healthy trees is also crucial. That is where tree pruning comes into the picture. The best form is directional pruning.

Herbicides

It will kill off unwanted vegetation in an instant. Herbicides reduce the cost of maintaining utility rights-of-way by a lot. It is not a traditional approach.

Brush Removal

To prevent outages and fires, brush removal is essential. It can limit the access of crews to inspect powerlines. That is a recipe for disaster. So, remove those brushes. It enforces reliability standards.

FAQs

Why is a vegetation management program important for utilities?

To have a clear power grid and to make sure that the East Coast doesn't end up bare, vegetation management is crucial for utilities. The last thing you want is to involve the federal government to force industry peers to keep the NERC standards.

What is vegetation maintenance?

That is the laser-targeted control and removal of unwanted vegetation. It leads to a hazard-free space being created. It would be best to implement measures to control weeds under and near power lines. Identify and eliminate for the best reliability performance.

What is regulatory pressure?

In simple terms, regulatory pressure is a reaction to the violation of rules. It is multidimensional in nature. Hence, a government-appointed person or organization regulates an area of activity.

Conclusion

You should take the management of vegetation very seriously. Enlist help from utility foresters. Utilities are even legally responsible for it. You should not only be concerned about the financial aspect of it. Aptimize is a breakthrough application that integrates various data, including satellite data, to assess the risk posed by vegetation. Moreover, it can generate optimal Vegetation Management programs for any given budget and allows you to prioritize interventions for optimal results. The Maintenance Optimizer will analyze your portfolio and understand the risk visually while creating a risk matrix with tables and creating dashboards, showcasing data through widgets.

Once the risk is understood, it will aggregate all your functional group assets, lines, poles, transformers, views aggregated by processors, geographically. It will create an Action plan to ramp up your decision-making and prioritize to tackle all your monetized risks. In the end, it will create a Maintenance scenario to reduce the risks, create the maintenance plans, and will suggest an optimized maintenance plan all the while maximizing ROI (ratio between maintenance cost and reduction of monetized risk). Using the Optimizer scenario, you can set budget constraints and dedicate the most optimal asset groups to send for maintenance. According to field data, if you want the smooth running of utility infrastructure, you should invest in vegetation management. The risks posed by wild vegetation are kept in check. That ensures public and environmental safety.