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Record numbers without power in past year

Published August 15. 2012 05:02PM

If it seems like we've been getting a lot of powerful storms lately, that's because we are.

Accompanying those storms, there's been a lot of power outages.

A report issued by the Pa. Public Utility Commission said during the year 2011, utility companies had the highest number of customer electrical outages in the past nine years.

"This past year's extreme weather events caused over 3.8 million electric customers in Pennsylvania to experience an electric service outage," says the PUC report.

It states, "Trees were the major cause of all outages and especially long-duration outages."

The report mentions that PPL Electric, which serves our local area, "had a relatively high percentage of outages caused by 'preventable' or trimming-related outages," the report notes.

According to the PUC, 72 percent of of major storm outages caused by trees were not preventable for PPL customers, but 14.5 percent were. Of PPL outages lasting over 72 hours, 74.3 percent were caused by trees and not preventable, but 15 percent were preventable.

Both Met Ed and PPL "had double the number of outages" of any electric distribution companies (EDC), said the report.

In 2011, the storms which caused the most power outages were heavy snow and some ice in February, strong thunderstorms in late May, Hurricane Irene in late August and an early-season, heavy wet snow in October.

The PUC says, "The response by EDC linemen and workers was commendable, enduring hazardous weather conditions and long hours. Despite their efforts, many customers experienced long-duration outages (greater than 72 hours). All EDCs should strive to limit the number of long-duration outages for any storm event. However, if long-duration outages are expected, EDCs need to effectively communicate with customers and other stakeholders throughout the ordeal."

Recommendations for utility companies were made by the PUC regarding reducing the number and duration of storm-related electrical outages. They include:

• Those utilities who experienced long-term outages should determine if vegetation management trimming cycles should be expedited and if the trimming method is sufficient to mitigate further long-duration outage events.

• As EDCs review and improve their vegetation management programs, they should work with local and county officials to mitigate possible consumer or resident resistance to tree trimming, especially in off-right-of-way areas.

• Electric distribution companies should continue to implement corrective actions for the worst performing circuits, and should strive to complete corrective actions for worst performing circuits by the close of the calendar-year quarter for which they were identified.

During a six-month period, which included periods of Hurricane Irene and the October snow storm, PPL had 275,758 customers affected by power outages; more than any other utility. In second place was Met Ed with 159,360 customers and PECO with 129,407 customers with outages.

There were 17,244 PPL customers without power for over 72 hours due to Hurricane Irene, while Met Ed had 14,705 customers affected and UGI Electric had 9,921 customers in the dark for over 72 hours.

During the October snowstorm, Met Ed had 35,622 customers affected with over 72 outages, while PPL had 20,870 customers without electric for over 72 hours.

The report points out that most of the EDCs that experienced multiple long-duration outage events were impacted by two major storms, PPL had significant impacts for all four major storms.

"This is likely due to the bulk of PPL service territory residing on the eastern half of Pennsylvania," the report says.

Specific regions of each utility are examined for outages in the report. In the territory served by PPL, the hardest hit by outages was the Lehigh Valley.

The report can be accessed at

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