Chelan County PUD commissioners hear details on plans to boost reliability

Chelan County PUD commissioners on June 15 heard proposals from PUD staff to bring the utility to the top quartile of reliable electrical service, in line with other high-performing U.S. public power providers.

If approved in future budgets, the utility would make annual investments of an additional $2 million throughout its electrical system for a total of $4.3 million each year, the Washington State PUD noted.

Through these investments, PUD staff aim to reduce overall outages by an average of 36 minutes annually per customer, a reduction of 73 percent systemwide. The PUD is targeting meeting this goal by 2025.

By some measures, the PUD already is meeting top quartile performance and is now seeking to remove any doubts, Chelan said.

“In setting this goal, we looked at reliability metrics at some of the top performing electric utilities in the country, based on data from the American Public Power Association,” said Chad Rissman, director of district asset management.

Additional investments would be made in the areas of trimming vegetation around utility lines and replacing underground electrical cable. These investment areas deliver the most “bang for the buck,” according to Rissman.

“Providing benchmarking data to help with reliability efforts is a core element of what APPA offers to members such as Chelan,” said Alex Hofmann, Acting Vice President of Engineering Services at APPA. “Improving and maintaining reliability to keep the lights on longer in our communities is what public power is all about,” he said.

Chelan also plans to continue its commitment to improvements that reduce instances of animal-related outages and upgrade equipment such as fuses, transformers, insulators and other devices.

When looking at the largest causes of outages over the past five years, the PUD notes that 65 percent fell into the four areas where it’s proposing to make additional improvements or maintain its level of reliability work.

“If there’s a great place where we can put extra effort and provide benefits to the people of Chelan County, this is it,” said PUD Commissioner Randy Smith.

The PUD will revisit the proposed reliability investments during its budget process later this year.