Power Reliability Worries Spur Data Centers and Other Businesses to Pursue Energy Alternatives: Survey

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Worry is so high about power reliability that businesses are taking matters into their own hands, with data centers particularly active in seeking energy alternatives, according to an industry survey.

power reliabilityReleased last week for the first time in its entirety, “State of Commercial & Industrial Power Reliability,” analyzes results from a survey of 251 commercial and industrial businesses conducted late last year by Frost & Sullivan for S&C Electric.

The report finds that 70 percent of companies are worried about power reliability and 40 percent would pay a premium to improve it.

The findings are particularly significant to utilities, since 60 percent of those surveyed said they are seeking ways to improve power reliability beyond what their power providers offer.

“The majority of these customers have determined they need to take their own actions to achieve the level of power reliability they need,” says the report.

Of those, data centers lead the way at 81 percent looking for a higher standard for power reliability than they currently experience. They see procuring their own solutions as the best guarantee to achieve the level they need, according to the report. This isn’t surprising in that 52 percent of data centers already spend $50,000 or more annually to improve power reliability.

“Data Centers take a far more active role in guaranteeing power reliability. The majority, at 57 percent, own on-site generation, and another 43 percent own on-site generation and are seeking to expand it in the future. The majority also would like their local utility to offer premium power,” says the report.

Data center operators can learn more about electric resiliency and microgrids at Microgrid 2018, during a special session with AFCOM, the association for data center professionals, May 9 in Chicago.*

Businesses also want stricter standards applied to measuring utility outage performance. Regulators exclude major events, like storms, when they gauge a utility’s power reliability. They also exclude outages that last less than five minutes — even though such events can be costly to certain manufacturers and data centers. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said that the bar for reliability should be raised.

The report also assessed C&I power outages throughout 2017 and found:

  • 50 percent of companies experienced a power outage lasting more than one hour
  • 25 percent of companies experienced a power outage at least once a month, and 86 percent of respondents have experienced at least one power outage in the last 12 months
  • 18 percent of companies experienced a loss of more than $100,000 as a result of the worst outage

The report focuses on energy users in manufacturing, data center, healthcare, small franchise, and education sectors, broken down by region of the U.S. The respondents represent the majority of metered revenue for the utilities that serve them. Their monthly energy consumption ranges from 10 MWh to more than 50 MWh.

“Although data exist about outages in the United States and their cost, no one has systematically attempted to gather the opinions of utilities’ most prudent customers,” said Jerry Yakel, director of Grid Reliability at S&C Electric. “We wanted to uncover what customers truly think about power reliability and to understand what ‘satisfaction’ means and what drives it. It’s these types of findings that inspire S&C to create innovative solutions and continually push the industry forward.”

The report is available on S&C Electric’s site.

*AFCOM members are invited to a meeting at Microgrid 2018, hosted by John Heiderscheidt, president, AFCOM Chicago Chapter, and Microgrid Knowledge in Chicago from  8:30 – 10 am, May 9. Participants also have the opportunity to attend a special presentation on microgrids and power resiliency for data centers, plus a coffee-and-networking opportunity following the presentation.  More details about the three-day Microgrid 2018 are here.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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  1. […] seems like the main problem data centers are currently facing is a lack of reliable power systems and operators are currently looking at alternative energy sources, such as solar to combat this […]

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