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Cleco modernizes its distribution grid

Sep 15, 2018

PINEVILLE, La. – Sept. 15, 2018 – To improve service reliability and reduce restoration time, Cleco is taking one of many steps toward being amongst the leading utilities in the nation in distribution grid modernization.

DSMART, a seven-year, $87 million project to automate and modernize Cleco’s distribution system, will upgrade Cleco’s distribution system with devices that can communicate intelligently with Cleco’s Distribution Operations Center (DOC).

“This smart upgrade is not only going to improve reliability for our customers, it will help Cleco increase operational efficiency,” said Brandon Nugent, Cleco lead engineer.

For example, when there’s an outage on Cleco’s current system, it may require a line mechanic to patrol miles of lines to locate the fault.  Once the fault is identified, the line mechanic would drive from switch to switch rerouting power, and then return to the incident location to make the necessary repairs.  After repairs are made, he would then have to revisit those switches to restore the normal flow of power to customers.

Additionally, the upgrade will reduce customer restoration time by allowing DOC operators to automatically and remotely operate switches, as well as identify the fault location with accuracy up to half a mile.  A customer may see their electricity blink on and off three times before staying on, which means that they are affected by a fault that has been detected in a line and the circuit is automatically rerouting power to keep their lights on.

“DSMART will streamline restoration of service by reducing line mechanic patrol time, automating restoration and better isolating affected areas to minimize disruption to other customers,” said Nugent.

DSMART will be completed across Cleco’s service territory in three stages, in order from the distribution area that has reported the most hours of customer outages to the least.  The first area to receive DSMART will be Cleco’s Northern district, which stretches as far north as DeSoto parish to as far south as Calcasieu parish. 

“Furthermore, this system-wide upgrade will afford us the opportunity to preempt future outages by analyzing and addressing temporary faults before they become outages,” said Jimmie Belgard, Cleco supervisor of distribution automation support.  “Not only is this project upgrading Cleco’s distribution network to the latest state of the art technology today, its laying the ground work for future technologies and analytics that will help assure Cleco’s position as a leader in the industry.”

The DSMART project will kick off in 2019 with all stages expected to be completed across Cleco’s service territory by the end of 2026.  For project updates, follow Cleco on social media at and at