According to the Eaton Blackout Tracker 2013, the No. 1 cause of power outages in 2013 was weather/trees (966 outages). Faulty equipment and human error were a close second (921 outages). Vehicle accidents were a distant third (354), followed by animals (206), planned outages (175), theft/vandalism (30), and over-demand (6). A total of 578 outages were classified as “unknown.”
While tree trimming and other utility activities can reduce the number of weather/tree-related outages, virtually everyone involved in utility work, including electrical contractors, can influence the “faulty equipment and human error” problem.
That is, when components do not pass certification tests, the cost to the industry and society can be measured in increased financial costs, lost revenue, power outages, safety issues and liability cases. In the United States, electrical outages, surges and spikes are estimated to cause more than $150 billion in annual damages to the economy.
Third-party testing and certification help to ensure that equipment operates to the highest international standards and performs correctly in all network conditions.
According to global testing authority DNV GL, inspection and certification of power-system components and the growth of high-voltage power networks are driving a global proliferation of new high-voltage transmission and distribution components, such as circuit breakers and power transformers. Before installing these components in the power network, utilities must be confident that they reliably function correctly to minimize outage risks.
“In addition to enhancing reliability by ensuring that performance and safety criteria have been met—a critical proof in liability cases—certification also streamlines and optimizes the equipment-purchasing process,” said Jacob Fontijne, executive vice president, Power TIC for DNV GL. “When utilities insist that manufacturers provide certification, the industry and society benefit from increased reliability, safety and efficiency.”
However, according to a recent DNV GL report, 30 percent of the components tested in its laboratories failed to pass the physical laboratory tests and, thus, did not receive certification. As such, it behooves all contractors who purchase equipment to ensure that it meets rigorous testing and certification standards.