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Reducing Power Line Associated Wildfire Risks

Reducing Power Line Associated Wildfire Risks

Managing and maintaining power infrastructure networks is becoming increasingly demanding for utility providers with extreme weather events, such as prolonged droughts, presenting a complex set of challenges. Fugro’s expertise in asset management and innovation has combined to create a unique and comprehensive digital solution to nature’s problems.

Network Compliance image
Roames analytics and visualisation tool enhances the management of power transmission and distribution networks.
Electric utilities must manage vegetation around power lines for a multitude of reasons, not least the serious risk of wild fires. Roames enables them to do so by providing a near real-time status of their entire network; the annual growth of individual trees; proximity to the power line. A unique and affordable asset management service, Roames helped Ergon Energy save 40% on their vegetation management budget.
Robert Hoddenbach, Global Director Power, Fugro
Vegetation Management
Roames provides immediate actionable reporting of vegetation intrusions based on client and regulatory standards and proximity rules.

The challenge of how to manage and maintain critical power infrastructure networks is central both to utilities and the communities they serve. As power cables wind their way across urban and rural environments, nature's impact is not exercised just though weather events but in the less dramatic, but just as inevitable, spread of natural vegetation.

Vegetation such as trees and bushes present obvious challenges for network providers with ongoing growth that puts them into proximity with power lines. Hazards such as falling branches and direct contact due to natural growth present threats. Where contact occurs, danger exists. At best the outcome could be an interrupted supply – at worst, ignition of a fire.


Devastating wildfires in California during 2017 became the focus of global attention as wholesale damage was caused and lives were lost. In June 2018 the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection identified that four of the fires in 2017 were caused by trees contacting power lines.

In the face of such destructive events regulatory demands are increasing. New fire-safety regulations, adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in December 2017, require utilities to maintain greater minimum vegetation clearances to increase the safety of overhead power lines in high fire-threat areas. 

The recent wildfires in California emphasise how alert power companies must be to reducing wildfire risk by properly maintaining power infrastructure, and the severe financial risks they could face if they fail to mitigate risk successfully.

Vegetation ‘blind spots’

With traditional vegetation management methods, the complexity of an extensive power network can easily result in vegetation ‘blind spots’. Utilities require robust, auditable methods of assessing vegetation risk and ensuring corrective vegetation treatment activities are appropriately executed. These issues can be addressed by using cloud-based analytics, revolutionising vegetation management and helping mitigate vegetation risks for global utility industry leaders.

Fugro’s Roames solution is an innovative way to ensure assets and their surrounding environment, works, and disasters are managed.  Unlike established asset management tools that provide a two-dimensional schematic of the utility network, Roames provides a precise and complete 3D electricity model of every pole and wire, circuits with connectivity, and network voltages. It combines cutting edge remote sensing technologies with cloud computing and machine learning algorithms to deliver a complete and accurate, real-world, digital twin of a power company’s assets. 

Using regrowth with vegetation analytics and desktop scoping solutions including modelling of every individual tree to determine its annual growth and proximity to the powerline, utilities can model vegetation growth, and schedule their cutting programmes.

Fugro’s Roames service has delivered significant cost and performance improvements to Australia’s two largest electricity distributors Ergon Energy and Essential Energy. Safety is a key value for Ergon Energy and the Roames capability has already proven its worth by identifying risks in the network that previously could not be detected using traditional inspection processes. This makes for a safer network, improved employee and community safety and significantly reduces vegetation management costs.

Did you know?

The 2017 California wildfires caused historic levels of death and destruction, with almost 9,000 wildfires burning 1.2 million acres of land, destroying more than 10,800 structures and killing 46 people.

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