Ergon Energy lifts the lid on one of Australia's most hi-tech responses to a disaster.

When Category Four Tropical Cyclone Debbie hit the Far North Queensland coast in March this year, 65,000 customers were plunged into darkness as 260 km/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 addressed the country’s largest forum of spatial industry professionals at the Ozri 2017 conference on how real-time GIS technology enabled the utility to overcome TC Debbie in record time.

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.”

Esri Australia managing director Brett Bundock said for the past three years, the utilities sector within this country has been at the leading-edge of GIS deployment – driving innovation across all areas of the business.

“Energy Queensland’s response to TC Debbie is a perfect example of how Australian utilities are using inventive spatial thinking to establish new high benchmarks in planning and customer service,” said Mr Bundock.

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