HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today released three reports providing detail information about and action items related to severe storm-related outages from 2011 and corrective actions.
“While the severe weather and its consequences may have faded from memory, the PUC’s ongoing evaluation and improvements made to date will yield constructive results,” said Commission Chairman Robert F. Powelson. “The PUC conducted a rigorous evaluation of the weather-related outages from 2011. During that process, we made changes to try and minimize future storm impacts. We also are holding the electric utilities accountable for improving their reliability and communications with customers.”
According to an executive summary of the three PUC staff reports, extreme weather events in 2011 caused more than 3.8 million electric outages in Pennsylvania, representing the highest number of customer electric outages in the past nine years. Many of these customers experienced outages greater than 72 hours.
Pennsylvania’s electric distribution companies (EDCs) were affected by significant weather events including: heavy snow and some ice in February; strong thunderstorms in late May; a direct impact by Hurricane Irene in late August; flooding rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee in early September; and an early-season heavy, wet snow in late October.
Although the Commission reviews the performance of EDCs following every major storm event, the multiple, long-duration events presented an opportunity for additional review, especially due to the significant number of affected customers and some patterns that emerged during the utilities’ responses to the various storms.
The reports contain information on actions taken by the PUC and ongoing steps. The reports also make recommendations to the EDCs for address many concerns. The reports also compile and analyze EDC data; examine complaints about the inability of customers to contact the EDC to report outages; and review a lack of specific restoration information.
As a result, PUC staff prepared the following reports:
- Hurricane Irene Report – Focuses on the EDCs’ preparation for and response to Hurricane Irene. After reviewing and analyzing reports submitted by EDCs and comments provided at the Commission’s Oct. 12, 2011, Special Reliability Forum, staff offers several recommendations concerning the handling by EDCs of high-volume call periods; relationships between EDCs and local and county emergency management and elected officials; a study of extreme/severe weather patterns; and the need for infrastructure enhancements.
- Summary Report of EDCs’ Handling of High-Call Volumes and Analysis of Storm and Severe Weather Data – Summarizes EDC information relating to handling of high-call volumes during major storms and corrective actions that are currently underway or completed. The chief finding from the Hurricane Irene report determined that communications problems exacerbated customer frustrations. The report also addresses the need to focus on the increase in severe weather events and whether infrastructure improvements are necessary.
- Summary Report of Outage Information Required by Nov. 11, 2011 Order at Docket No. I-2011-2271989– Summarizes outage information submitted by the EDCs for the period from May through November 2011 on full or partial circuit outages greater than 24 hours; between 24 and 48 hours; greater than 48 hours to 72 hours; and greater than 72 hours. It also considered circuits that were among the worst performing 5 percent of circuits identified in the PUC-filed Quarterly Reliability Reports for the first three quarters of 2011. In this report, PUC staff recommended various studies and corrective actions by EDCs related to vegetation management trimming cycles and other potential outage mitigation measures such as strategic installation of automatic distribution circuit reclosers and sectionalizers.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities to ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protect the public interest; educate consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; further economic development; and foster new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases, audio of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov.
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Docket No. I-2011-2271989