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LMR systems are essential for Utilities during a disaster, but how do you drive up the value of the investment during business-as-usual conditions?

Ask any Utility network operator what their greatest pain point is and they'll say it is managing operating expenses. Predicting an operating budget a year in advance is difficult enough. Mix in aging infrastructure, severe weather like heat waves or ice storms, and some unplanned maintenance; what you end up with is a fleet of trucks out there day after day, managing the grid, addressing faults, upgrading circuits and gathering performance data.

Consider this:

A typical US electric distribution utility might have 2,000 capacity banks across its operation to compensate for voltage loss associated with warm weather and/or planned state changes. Four times a year, each bank must be manually switched over, by employees in trucks. On average, a truck roll costs a utility $500.

2,000 capacity banks

x four visits annually

x $500 per visit

= US$4million OPEX each year

Imagine converting that $4 million OPEX per annum into CAPEX for infrastructure upgrades, or reinvesting it in the business. Simply by using the data capacity that already exists in a DMR Tier III voice network, these manual switchovers can be managed remotely, from your control centre. Of course this isn't entirely without cost – each capacitor bank would need a data terminal installed to control the switchover. But at around US$1,000 each, the utility in our example will have paid that cost in just two truck rolls. So after just six months, the CAPEX is repaid, and you begin to recoup OPEX.

Better still, you don't need to invest $1,000 on each of those capacity banks all at once. In fact, the business case to tackle the less-accessible banks first is really compelling, as the savings on those truck rolls are greater. By investing first in those banks with the highest savings, you can use those OPEX savings to fund rollout of terminals on other capacitor banks.

This example is premised on $500 per truck roll being the average. Depending on your geography, distance travelled and weather, some of those banks may be costing twice that (or more) for every visit. Conservatively, you might have 10% of your capacitor banks in this category.

Let's take a look at those numbers:

200 hard-to-reach banks

x four visits annually

x $1,000 in truck rolls per year

= US$800,000 OPEX saving annually

200 hard-to-reach banks

x $1,000 data terminal each

= US$200,000 CAPEX investment

US$800,000 OPEX saving

- US$200,000 CAPEX investment

= US$600,000 CAPEX available to invest in 600 further data terminals.

Calculate the benefits of Remote Asset Management and reducing truck rolls that Tait GridLink can provide your utility by using our unique Remote Asset Management Benefits Calculator.

Solution Diagram

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