Reliability means business

Business and industrial customers use more than 60 percent of the net electricity generated in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. It’s therefore natural that reliable, low-cost electricity is a critical factor in economic development.  

As a public power utility, you can show off your reliability advantages — both on paper and in practice — to the businesses your community is trying to attract.

Showing a prospective business that it can expect reliable power means you should be able to articulate:

  • How well the power system is managed;
  • Your key reliability metrics (SAIDI, SAIFI);
  • Redundancies available to the customer/site;
  • How well equipped you are to restore power after an outage;
  • Power quality; and
  • How a specialized resource mix or source might specifically perform at different times or in different conditions.

Through careful tracking and benchmarking of reliability metrics, you can show prospective businesses exactly how well your system can perform. For example, by presenting them with a history of all the outages that have occurred in the last five years on the circuit they’re considering locating to, including the duration and percentage of customers affected in each instance.

Public power utilities’ strong reliability track record, coupled with low cost, has led several major industries to relocate or expand in areas served by public power utilities. For example, in the past decade, the energy-hungry automotive industry has set up shop in many parts of the Tennessee Valley and across the Southeast.

For customers with high energy use, electricity is less of a line item and more of an area for relationship management. Your key accounts track reliability throughout their operations. Austin Energy in Texas knows that for its major tech customers — including Samsung, Google, and Dell — power quality is a key deciding factor for staying in the utility’s service territory.

Lack of reliability has a ripple effect on all types of customers, especially in a smaller community. If frequent interruptions to power supply cause a large industrial customer to not be able to operate, that disrupts the lives of your residential customers, who make up many of the industry’s jobs.

By prioritizing reliability improvements, and telling your reliability story, you can gain the upper hand.

Cost is a significant factor as well. In 2017, the EIA reports that commercial customers paid more than $650 on average per month, and industrial customers paid an average of more than $6,700 per month on their electricity bills. 

Subscribers to the American Public Power Association’s eReliability Tracker can measure the exact cost of outages through a variation on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Interruption Cost Estimator. This can help your utility prioritize reliability improvements. For example, if a feeder has the highest cost per minute of outage, then it can be considered a valuable upgrade target even if it has relatively less outage duration.

Reliability is good for business — for public power utilities and for your customers.