EIA highlights strong reliability performance by public power utilities

Public power utility customers continue to experience high levels of reliability when compared with customers of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and cooperatives, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported on June 1.

In 2018, power outage durations for U.S. electricity customers averaged 5.8 hours per customer, EIA said in its latest “Today in Energy” report.

When major events are excluded, power interruption durations for each of the three utility types – investor-owned utilities, cooperatives and public power utilities -- remain relatively constant over time, EIA said.

Publicly owned utility customers experienced the most reliability, averaging about one hour of interrupted electric service annually since 2013, EIA reported.

IOU customers averaged slightly less than two hours of interrupted service, and cooperative customers averaged about two-and-a-half hours of interrupted service.

Although customers of all three utility types experience longer outage durations when major events are included, the same reliability ranking prevails, with publicly owned utility customers experiencing the highest reliability, followed by IOU and co-op customers, EIA noted.

Since EIA began collecting reliability data in 2013, U.S. electricity customers have consistently experienced average total power interruptions of about two hours (106 minutes to 118 minutes) per year when major events are excluded.

 In 2017 and 2018, however, customers experienced longer outages, driven by increases in interruptions with major events.

In 2017, the average electricity outage duration with major events was twice as long as in previous years. This increase was largely a result of higher numbers of hurricanes, wildfires, and severe storms that year.

The latest set of data from EIA continues a trend seen in recent years showing how public power leads when it comes to reliability and outage figures.

In April 2018, EIA reported that public power utility customers experienced the lowest instances of power outages in both frequency and duration in 2016, averaging one outage and less than two hours of interrupted electric service.

And in September 2016, EIA reported that in 2015, compared to IOUs and rural electric cooperatives, municipal utility customers experienced the lowest instances of power outages in both frequency and duration, averaging one outage and about two hours of interrupted service.

APPA recognizes public power utilities for reliability

Public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in reliability and other key areas are recognized by the American Public Power Association as Reliable Public Power Providers (RP3).

The RP3 designation, which lasts for three years, recognizes public power utilities that demonstrate proficiency in four key disciplines: reliability, safety, workforce development and system improvement. Criteria include sound business practices and a utility-wide commitment to safe and reliable delivery of electricity.

This year, 114 utilities earned the designation and, in total, 278 of the more than 2,000 public power utilities nation-wide hold the RP3 designation.