CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Even though nearly 30,000 EPB customers lost power after Thursday night's storms, without the new Smart Grid technology to lend a hand, it could have been worse.

"What may have taken out say 1000 people, now one of these switches will open up and it may only take out 150 to 200 people," says Jim Glass, Manager of Smart Grid Development at EPB.

The switches are part of a state-of-the-art network combining automation and fiber optics. Power problems are identified, isolated, and addressed at a 21st century pace.

"What used to require a person in a truck to drive around and find the problem, now the Smart Grid automated switches can do in a couple of seconds," explains Glass.

This improves the odds you won't be in the dark nearly as long as in the past in the event of an outage. The improvements are partially funded by the 2009 stimulus program along with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Glass says the reason for the next generation improvement isn't to only to catch up with other cities which have done it, but to keep the lights on for more people.

"It just allows for much more capability to operate and manage the electric system and results in a much more reliable electric system for your customers," says Glass. 

But Glass adds it's a work-in-progress. He says there's been a 40% improvement in service--that is, reduction in minutes of interrupted power--since the project began. This is with 90% of the automated switches in place.

"We'll probably have the last 10% of those done sometime in the fall," says Glass.

He also says EPB is working on an automated metering system which will help customers better monitor their usage and save money. This should be in place by the end of 2012.