electric tracing

Esri Utility Network – Introducing Electric Tracing

November 3, 2016 — Skye Perry

Electric tracing is a common and critical functionality. As we continue to review functionality in the Esri Utility Network, we wanted to take a look at electric tracing. This article looks at significant, new functionality specific to electric circuits, and traces that are exposed out-of-the-box via geo-processing tasks within ArcGIS Pro. In this post and the associated video, we look at how many of the most common electric traces are performed within Pro. Please note that I am using sample Esri electric data from Naperville, IL.

Electric Tracing – Revisiting the SubnetLine Feature Class

Before digging into the individual trace options, I first want to show off the usage of the Utility Network (UN) SubnetLine feature class. We discussed the SubnetLine feature class at the data model level in a previous post.

This feature class is a new concept to ArcGIS as of the UN release. Yet, it is also very useful. The UN maintains our electric circuits, gas pressure systems, and more as subnetworks. A subnetwork is defined as a “connected sub-portion of the larger network.” Read more about subnetworks in this earlier post.

The UN maintains subnetworks based on established utility rules; these rules exist around connectivity. When a subnetwork is established, the UN automatically creates and maintains a single feature representation of each subnetwork. This happens within the SubnetLine feature class. Thus, we have the purpose of the SubnetLine feature class.

Take a look at this example. We see the UN has created a single feature representing the circuit named “RMT003.” RMT003 is shown in this map, as the colored selection:

Utility Network SubnetLine for Electric Tracing

This makes creating color by circuit/system maps significantly easier. It’s easier because you are setting colored symbology for only a single layer instead of ALL of the layers in your network. This also speeds up the performance of your single-line maps; now, they now render just a single feature per subnetwork as opposed to rendering hundreds to thousands of individual records that make up your circuit or system.

The defined subnetwork name (i.e., the circuit name) is also persisted onto all of the individual features that make up the circuit. This occurs when the subnetwork is established by the UN. (This also happens at the same time the SubnetLine is established or updated.) This screenshot shows the circuit name, “RTM003,” set as an attribute on each transformer on the circuit:

Circuit Name Persisted on Transformer

When a device, such as a tie switch, is encountered, the UN is smart enough to capture both circuit numbers. It does so in a format similar to “RMT003::RMT001.” This handles all of the tie points between circuits that we manage in the geometric network today.

Electric Tracing – Eliminating Clicks

Next, to make the traces easier to work with in Pro, we wrapped the geoprocessing tasks with pre-configured parameters. (We did this via Model Builder.) The preconfigured parameters gets rid of unnecessary clicks for the most common traces. The result is that we are able to quickly and easily place a starting point for the trace and then execute a standard electric trace. When selecting a start point with terminals, we are prompted to choose which terminal we should be tracing from. In this example, we are starting the trace from the load side of a circuit breaker:

Utility Network Select Trace Locations

We then double click an electric trace to view the results, which show up as a selection on the map.

Electric Tracing – Common Traces in the Utility Network

At SSP, we have recently been testing with the following electric traces, because they are most common:

  • Full Circuit Trace – This trace is your standard trace of the connected electric circuit that stops at open devices. Note that this trace uses the same logic as is used to create the subnetwork (circuit).
  • Upstream Trace – This trace can be run from any point on the network. It will provide the path that power flows from the defined source (a circuit breaker, in our example) to the starting point of the trace.
  • Downstream Trace – This trace can be run from any point on the network; it will select all features downstream from the starting point.
  • Upstream Protective Device Traces – This trace is the same as the upstream trace, except that it selects only those features defined as “protective devices.” It selects all protective devices between the starting point and the source of power. This is configured by applying a UN Network Category of applicable protective devices (e.g., fuses, switches, breakers).
  • Downstream Protective Device Traces – This trace is the same as the downstream trace, except it selects only those features defined as “protective devices.”

Utility Network Downstream Trace

Tracing and the Structure Network

In the Utility Network, your structures are now maintained in the Structure Network. You can read more about Structure Networks in a previous article.

This Structure Network gives us the option to include structures (via structural attachment associations) or containers (via containment associations) when we are conducting ANY of the traces mentioned above.

Utility Network Include Structures in Trace

Utility Network Include Structures in Trace

This means that we can easily get all of the poles, pads, vaults, and other structures attached to the current circuit trace selected on the map. This comes in addition to or in place of the electrically connected features. In the past, this has typically been handled via custom processes. But now, in the Utility Network, structures are returned as quickly as the trace is run, because they are natively part of the Utility Network.

In Action – Watch Tracing in Utility Network

It’s cool to hear about these concepts, but it’s even better to see them. That’s why we’ve wrapped all of these Utility Network concepts into a single new video. Take a look to watch electric tracing in the Utility Network. The video is approximately 10 minutes long.

Preparing to Use the Utility Network Yourself

We hope you are as excited about these new traces as we are!

We truly look forward to your feedback as we head toward Utility Network beta (eta January 2017)! Esri has noted that they will look to partner feedback to fine-tune the Utility Network’s usability and functionality. At SSP, we certainly understand that additional tools will really unleash the power of the new network. We’ve already done some simple automation via Esri Model Builder.

The key takeaway today is that Esri has built the core Utility Network functionality, which we need to be able to run typical GIS operations right in the new product.

On that note, we’d like your feedback about the Utility Network! What functionality works for you, what else would help your organization run smoother and what’s missing?

To get your hands on the Utility Network and start joining the conversation, we’ve created the SSP Utility Network Jumpstart program. The Utility Network Jumpstart allow you to skip all of the technology hurdles required to begin using the UN beta. Our goal is to get you productive with the UN beta as quickly as possible, even in as little as an hour, so that you can provide feedback to Esri right now, and help drive the creation and refinement of the needed toolsets within Utility Network.

Please check out our UN jumpstart page for more info and contact us if you’d like to hear more!

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Skye Perry is the CEO for SSP Innovations and has provided technical architecture, development, and management solutions for GIS-centered implementations since 2000. Skye’s roots tie back to Convergent Group, Miner & Miner, and Enspiria Solutions where he has focused on implementing Esri GIS customizations and system integrations. Today Skye is Read more


  • Wow, this is really cool stuff coming OOTB from ESRI!!!! I love how we can trace only certain devices, or the entire structure network! very intuitive!

  • Are there significant changes with regards to tracing in indeterminate loops? We have a very detailed ArcFM data model and it’s not possible to model everything in such detail (in a single line = 3 phase representation) that loops aren’t created in the geometric network (ie: transformers in series).
    We’ve had to make a custom tracing engine.

    • Hi Craig, to help us better understand the question, are you asking about creating a loop condition when we break out the individual transformer assets (likely your units today) and then reconnect them to an ABCN primary that continues on to the next xfr? Or is this more regarding valid underground loop conditions where differing phases could be fed from differing directions?

      Either way, the UN should handle these cases. We’re happy to explore the question if you want to provide more detail.

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