Association honors public power utilities for high levels of reliability

The American Public Power Association recently honored 143 public power utilities with a "certificate of excellence" for reliable performance, as shown by comparing their outage records against nationwide data gathered by the Energy Information Administration.

The utilities that were recognized by the Association have been keeping track of their reliability data via the Association's web-based subscription service, called eReliability Tracker, which lets utilities collect, categorize and summarize their outage information.

Subscribing utilities use the eReliability Tracker Service to store their outage and restoration data and run reports throughout the year.

At the end of the year, the Association benchmarks their data against national statistics from EIA, which is a branch of the Department of Energy.

Utilities that placed in the top quartile of reliability nationwide, as measured against the EIA's data on System Average Interruption Duration Index, or SAIDI, received the certificate of excellence. The EIA information comes from the agency's annual surveys of electric power utilities via EIA Form 861.

Among the 2018 certificate of excellence recipients was Massachusetts-based public power utility Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant.

Kevin Sullivan, General Manager for Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant, said that on behalf of the utility, he was honored to be a part of the group of utilities that were recognized for excellence in reliability.

Sullivan said that the utility works hard to ensure that any downtime its customers may see is minimal. “Our entire thought process is around reliability; our tree trimming program is a substantial part of the reason our customers are minimally impacted by storm related damage,” he said in an email.

“We work hard at doing patrols to determine the equipment that needs replacement and have recently completed a meter upgrade that provides outage notification. Our linemen all live within 20 minutes of the shop providing quick response to outage while on call.”

Sullivan said that reliability “is built on a process that requires all sides of the business be examined and where necessary, enhanced. Here in Ashburnham, that is exactly the strategy in place. Day after day, we fight the fight and continue to do the best we can and when an award of excellence comes along it takes everyone by surprise making what we are doing that much more gratifying.”

When asked to describe how Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant has benefited from use of the eReliability Tracker software, Sullivan said that the tracker has helped to capture outages the utility experiences without having to create a program database consisting of formulas. “The added benefit is I can measure the AMLP’s progress against itself or other comparable utilities and understand how other utilities also track reliability,” he said.

Another utility that was recognized with a certificate of excellence was Ohio-based Piqua Power.

Ed Krieger, Piqua Power’s System Director, said in an interview that “we’re certainly happy that we’ve received the certificate again,” noting that the utility has earned the recognition since it first became available. “It’s not an unexpected honor because it’s something that we focus on,” he went on to say. “These things don’t happen by accident.”

Krieger noted in the interview that he has been at the utility since 1998 “and when I got here people said, we’ve got this great reliability, but no one was keeping track of anything.”

He said that Piqua Power was one of the first utilities that purchased the initial reliability-related software offered by the Association several years ago. “It’s been updated and modified and now it’s this online system,” Krieger said.

“We’ve been using it from day one and day one for us was in 2004,” which is when the utility started tracking outages, he said.

“You can’t improve anything unless you track it and do something with the data,” Krieger noted.

He said that the utility early on identified one of its biggest issues was animals and, more specifically, squirrels.

Krieger said that in 2004, the utility had 63 animal-related outages, in 2005, that category of outages rose to 65 and by 2006, the utility had 81 animal-related outages.

“These animal outages were accelerating at an alarming rate, so that showed us we had a problem. The tracking software helped us identify we had a problem…and so we started attacking this thing one pole at a time, one outage at a time,” he said in the interview.

By 2014, the utility was down to 31 outages, meaning that the utility was able to drive out more than 50 squirrel-related outages over a period of eight years. “So we track the data, we analyze the data and then we act on the data,” he said.

[In a 2017 blog, Alex Hofmann, Senior Director of Energy and Environmental Services, at the Association, noted that utilities using the eReliability Tracker system “help us to get a better picture of the timing and trends in squirrel-related outages through the year.”]

Piqua Power had a high of around 250 total outages in 2005. “The last six years, we’ve averaged around a hundred,” Krieger said.

The Association’s software has “given us the tool that we needed to identify the problems we’ve had and then it also allows us to monitor the successes and the progress we’ve been making towards achieving our goals.”

The full list of 2018 certificate recipients is available here.