Introduction to the asset and analytics project

Project Description

Key Research Questions

Distribution systems are composed of many assets that are distributed over a wide geographic area. Many of these assets are near or past their expected service life. Typically, an individual asset’s low cost makes online monitoring or testing difficult to justify, but the cumulative impact of aging equipment can have significant reliability and cost implications. Distribution asset managers are thus faced with the unique challenge of addressing aging infrastructure—and the associated risk—with minimal tools and information to support decision making. Many electric utilities are considering or have implemented asset management programs to minimize equipment life-cycle costs and risks, with much of the effort historically targeted at the more expensive transmission components, such as substation power transformers. These approaches could provide significant value to distribution systems. However, the data, analytical tools, and models required for distribution assets are not well established. At the same time, utilities are increasingly challenged with being able quantify, justify, and measure the effectiveness of investments in assets to bolster reliability and resiliency.


OH and UG distribution asset analytics research and reliability / resiliency analytics research intend to bridge this gap by developing decision support tools and methods to apply new insights and inferences extracted from analysis of asset performance and reliability data (e.g. maintenance, condition assessment, failure histories, images, expert knowledge, and outage data) by:

  • Developing data models and database structures to assemble historical and on-going overhead and underground distribution asset performance and reliability data
  • The establishment of industrywide databases comprised of appropriate, aggregated utility performance data and subsequent data mining to establish insights that inform decision making
  • Developing metrics to better assess and evaluate equipment and system performance
  • Analysis and integration of expert elicitation and data gathered from condition assessment/laboratory testing of overhead line components
  • Developing novel approaches to curate data to enhance its benefit

The results of this research will support resource allocation decisions and other fleet and system performance tasks and provide utilities with new knowledge and data vital for effective asset and reliability management.

Research Tasks

The program includes several interrelated and complementary research efforts.

Definition and Data Models for Industrywide Overhead and Underground Distribution Asset: This task develops and updates the underlying data models for efficient and effective extraction, transfer and loading of test, diagnostics, performance, and failure data for use in industry and utility database applications and performance analytics. The data model is used in the EPRI Industrywide Asset Failure and Performance Database. In 2021, review of data models for distribution transformers (surface-mount, underground, and network), underground cables, and wood poles will be conducted. This task could also work with project funders to develop a comprehensive prioritized list of additional overhead and underground distribution assets for which data models may be developed in future years.

Industrywide Overhead and Underground Distribution Performance and Failure Database: This task compiles and analyzes historical failure and performance data on overhead and underground distribution assets in a common format using information gathered from participating utilities. Results may be distributed in the form of an online (Web-based) database. The development of failure forms, data gathering, and analysis is expected to follow the same list of assets as in the data model development task.

Analytics for Fleet Management of Overhead and Underground Distribution Assets: This task investigates and develops performance assessment analytics for overhead and underground distribution assets, such as wood poles, underground cables, and distribution transformers (surface-mount, underground, and network). The analytics are developed using data mining and analysis of periodic inspection results; failure modes and degradation research (carried out in other asset-focused projects in P180); subject matter expert experience; and other inputs, such as family, make, model, manufacturer, and operating environment. In 2021, the research will focus on enhancements to algorithms and analytic methods for wood pole, underground cable, and distribution transformers.

Evaluating Costs / Benefits of Reliability / Resiliency Improvement Options: Investments in reliability and resiliency improvement can be difficult to quantify and justify if utilities lack good information about the anticipated benefits. In 2020, EPRI research focused on developing and demonstrating methodologies for evaluating cost / benefits in support of reliability and resiliency improvement investments, targeting two areas, resilient poles and the use of reclosers versus fuses. For 2021, EPRI will continue this vein of research, expanding the focus to other resiliency / reliability improvement options, as determined by the project Task Force. A few options under consideration are upgrade to a resilient pole hardware design, expanded right of way, and strategic undergrounding. The research seeks to analyze improvement options at the micro-level (a single construction project) and at a macro-level (system-wide deployment). It is anticipated that this task will work closely with other ongoing EPRI research focused on reliability and resiliency improvement.

Reliability/Resiliency Management Analytics: Historical approaches to managing reliability and resiliency have included cyclical approaches and system-wide investments in improvement options. This research task aims to use data analytics to evaluate reliability enhancement opportunities to enable utility reliability/resiliency managers to identify and target investments may yield the most benefit. Data for analysis may come from multiple sources including the historic reliability records, GIS information, inspection data, and others. In 2020, EPRI focused on the application of analytical techniques to support the identification of “at-risk” trees, and optimal reclosing settings to leverage AMI information in outages. For 2021, EPRI will continue to evaluate analytical approaches to enable targeting reliability improvements, as identified from Task Force feedback. Options under consideration include: Investigation of resiliency metrics, extension of the at-risk tree project to assign risks, and identification of reliability/resiliency risk (impact) zones. Results from this task are expected to help inform approaches to reliability and resiliency improvement projects.

Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning for Reliability and Resiliency Applications: In 2020, EPRI examined the use of natural language processing (NLP) algorithms for real time coding of the verbal outage report. EPRI will continue research into NLP and other machine learning techniques for distribution applications in 2021, with a specific aim of expanding to real-time recording of other utility data acquisition activities, including damage assessment and routine inspections. This work supports the larger Distribution Program and mutual leanings may support EPRI’s digital worker initiatives.

Research Value

Anticipated benefits to public and funders are:

  • A sound technical basis for decision making
  • Improved reliability of electric service
  • Controlled lifecycle costs and risks
  • Optimize allocation of programs for reliability and resiliency
  • Reduce customers impacted by major storms and long interruptions

Asset and Analytics Task Force

The Asset and Analytics Task Force advises the Asset and Analytics Project (P180.005). This task force meets several times per year by WebEx or in person. There is usually one in-person meeting per year held in conjunction with the other P180 task forces.

Members are encouraged to participate in several ways:

  • Help identify gaps in current research
  • Make us aware of utility challenges and provide input to analytical approach
  • Contribute data
  • Share utility experiences and research application successes at task force and advisory meetings
  • Attend task-force meetings

This task force is also a good opportunity to meet automation experts at other participating companies.

Common Questions

Who can attend task-force meetings?

  • Task-force meetings are for funders of Program 180 or P180.005 project. This includes task-force members and guests from sponsoring companies.

How do I join this task force?

Can my company have more than one task-force member?

  • Yes.

Can I share task-force material within my company?

  • Yes.

Are discussions covered by a non-disclosure agreement?

  • Yes. All EPRI member agreements include non-disclosure clauses.

If my company isn’t funding this, how can I sign up?

  • Each company has their own methods for selecting components of the annual EPRI research portfolio. Contact your METT for more information. Technical advisors from EPRI’s member services can also help. Find contact information here.

Collaborative Supplemental Projects

Structure Improving Grid Safety and Resilience During Extreme Weather Events and Wildfires

This project intends to improve resiliency and reduce wildfire risks by providing an objective technical basis for advanced distribution system design, protection, and management techniques.
  • Collaborate to share leading strategies and approaches to reducing wildfire risk
  • Develop approach to improve grid safety and resiliency
  • Test and evaluate overhead design considerations
  • Test and verify advanced protection strategies
  • Document emerging practices for wildfire mitigation, recovery and stakeholder engagement

For more on supplemental projects, click here. To discuss project ideas, please e-mail Doug Dorr.

Other Programs

P200 Distribution Operations and Planning

P200 Cockpit | portfolio

  • PS200C: Operations
  • PS200D: Protection

P34 Distribution Operations and Planning

P34 Cockpit | portfolio

  • P34.001: Transmission Asset Management Analytics: Principles and Practices
  • P34.003: Overhead Transmission Asset Analytics
  • P34.004: Underground Transmission Asset Analytics