High-tech smarts spark electric cyclone recovery

Ergon Energy has lifted the lid on one of Australia’s most high-tech responses to a disaster.

When Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the Far North Queensland coast in March this year, 65,000 customers were plunged into darkness as 260km/h winds brought down 800 power lines and damaged 650 power poles.

Ergon, part of the Energy Queensland group, was widely praised for its response to the crisis, with nearly a thousand field staff and contractors working long hours to reconnect electricity to the cyclone-ravaged region.

Energy Queensland manager for information systems Matthew Piper revealed how real-time GIS technology enabled the utility to overcome TC Debbie at the Esri Australia Ozri 2017 conference in Brisbane earlier this month.

High voltage line repairs near Proserpine. Photo: Cameron Laird

Mr Piper said a world-first web-GIS incident management system that connected users with critical insights in real-time was at the heart of the approach.

“The system enabled our responders and managers to perform advanced spatial analysis, allowing all reporting components to be graphically shared on-the-fly,” Mr Piper said.

“Our centrally located support staff used the system to assist with flood modelling, real-time damage assessments and data analytics.

“And our field staff were able to both receive this information and upload and input findings from their respective locations. We were also able to integrate data from other government agencies and utilities.

“This gave us a powerful, real-time view of the crisis and its aftermath that enabled us to restore power to all of our customers safely and reliably in under 14 days, an industry first using this technology.”