A record hurricane season, winter storms and severe weather, and an unprecedented pandemic challenged Duke Energy crews and every community that we serve in 2020. It was clear by March that the pandemic would be transformative for Duke Energy’s storm response process.
A task force immediately went to work revising work processes and storm procedures to improve social distancing, modify travel and lodging procedures, deploy protective equipment, screen and monitor crew health, and coordinate storm response operations virtually.
These protocols were quickly put into action when a series of storms pummeled the Carolinas and Midwest in April, and again when hurricanes Isaias, Zeta and Eta struck Duke Energy service areas. This proactive planning resulted in no identified employee COVID-19 exposures during storm response efforts on our system in 2020.
Smart, self-healing technology systems helped to avoid more than 187,000 extended customer outages during storms, saving more than 1 million hours of lost outage time and helping speed overall storm restorations. Duke Energy is significantly expanding this technology over the next few years, which automatically detects power outages and reroutes power to restore power faster.
Smart meters also play a key role in improved restoration times. Restoration teams were able to successfully ping 41,000 meters to verify that power had been restored after completion of repairs, saving around 5,500 truck rolls and freeing up resources during major event responses in 2020.
In a record year that went beyond the standard list of named storms, Duke Energy also helped its neighbors recover from hurricane impacts. More than 3,500 Duke Energy crews and contract teams were deployed to assist multiple utilities along the Gulf Coast and other areas in 2020, providing more than 70 days of support and helping restore power in communities hit hard by extreme weather.
The company is working hard to prepare for the next storm. Duke Energy recently completed the installation of protective barriers around essential systems in flood-prone areas of the Carolinas, is continuing to upgrade poles and wires in vulnerable areas, and has grid strengthening and resiliency initiatives underway in all the regions we serve.