For Immediate Release: June 29, 2017

SMUD replacing dozens of poles, miles of cable

Community-owned electric utility enhancing system reliability

If you’re a SMUD customer, there’s a good chance you’ll see SMUD workers out this summer along area streets and highways working to improve the SMUD electrical system. Reliability is a Core Value of community-owned SMUD, so a lot of the work is preventative, concentrating on replacing older power poles and installing and replacing miles of underground cable. Safety is ingrained in SMUD’s culture, so doing the work now precludes needing to do it later such as during the winter storm season.

SMUD’s electrical grid serves about a million and a half people. The system is about 40 percent overhead (wires and transformers and other equipment on poles) and about 60 percent underground (buried cable and other equipment, and pad-mounted transformers). SMUD plans to replace about a thousand poles over the rest of the calendar year and some 3,000 poles over the next several years.

Most of the SMUD electrical grid is redundant, which means most of the customers affected by an outage can be rerouted to other power lines and circuits while the underground cable or damaged pole, transformer, or other electrical equipment is fixed or replaced. Most outages last less than an hour as a result. There are, however, some people who will experience longer outages because there are no redundant power lines in their area, or the damaged equipment affects them directly.

While underground electrical equipment provides for better aesthetics, it can also present significant challenges for all utilities, including SMUD. By its nature, any problem with equipment installed underground is going to be more difficult to initially locate, sometimes taking an hour or two. Repairing it can take several hours depending on the problem and the location. The longer restoration time is a trade-off of sorts for having underground service, compared to overhead service.

Additionally, the underground power cables that were manufactured decades ago tend to have higher failure rates. SMUD is replacing that cable with much better cable that has benefited from more rigorous testing and better manufacturing techniques. SMUD is replacing the older cable at a rate of about 400,000 feet—or more than 75 miles of new cable—which would be roughly the distance from Folsom to Lake Tahoe, per year over the next several years.

Meanwhile, the SMUD smart grid has become more robust every year since smart meters were installed at the beginning of the decade. The smart grid now enables more expedient identification of outages, which results in quicker restoration times. Sometimes power can be restored remotely or even automatically without having to dispatch a troubleshooter and a truck.

No one likes being without power, even for a short period of time. SMUD is here to help. If your power is out, please contact us and report it at the smud.org Outage Portal page, or by calling 1-888-456-SMUD. SMUD has optimized its outage map and outage reporting options for mobile phones as well. For more information about SMUD and its energy-saving programs and services, visit smud.org.