Vegetation Management

Vegetation Management is one of the largest ongoing operational expenses for utilities.

Overview

Utilities across North America spend over a billion dollars annually to mitigate tree related outages. Customer related outages on the distribution network, due to tree contacts, is still averaging 1 in 5 in Canada.

Vegetation Management practices not only help mitigate tree related outages by trimming back trees, underbrush and vines, but also stump removal, conducting root management, and identifying ‘danger trees’ are all part of vegetation management operations.

Proper Vegetation Management is not only critical to operations, but also helps mitigate wildfire ignition related to power lines by removing the vegetation or slash from rights-of-way.

* Slash: vegetation waste, a cut branch or brush that will be removed.

History of Topic

  • August 14, 2003, was considered the worst blackout ever impacting Canada and the United States. An estimated 50 million people experienced the multi-day event with a total cost estimate of between 4 and 10 billion dollars. The final Blackout Report from the U.S.-Canada System Outage Task Force reported on four major root causes, one of which included ‘inadequate tree trimming’.
  • Maintaining assets in rights-of-way has been a topic of conversation for many years but has taken on even greater importance due to the PG&E related fires of 2019; where asset maintenance and vegetation management along rights-of-way have now taken on greater importance in the battle for wildfire mitigation.

Did You Know?

  • Electricity Canada members follow vegetation management standards established by the industry such as NERC FAC-003-4 or ANSI A300 Standard.
  • Vegetation management is also conducted in accordance with provincial laws and federal acts, such as the Migratory Convention Birds Act, where utilities must accommodate the nesting habits of migratory birds.
  • New technology is providing a helping hand in vegetation management by applying new technology such as LIDAR, drones, and satellite imagery combined with artificial intelligence.