News Bureau: Tracking and Preventing Electric Outages

Reliable electric service is crucial – how does the PUCO monitor outages in your neighborhood?

Reliable electric service is crucial to modern life. When the power goes out, it may be for one of several reasons: severe weather, overgrown vegetation, equipment failure, or even stray wildlife. When outages from one electric distribution company (EDU) are frequent, prolonged or both, it may affect the utility’s overall reliability.

In this article, we’ll discuss outages in distribution, which is the final step in transporting electricity to your home, and how regulators monitor utility performance. For more about potential outages on the power grid, check out this News Bureau article.

What does the PUCO do to track outages?

When a customer calls the PUCO to report an outage, our staff asks several questions:

How long has your power been out? What was the weather like when the outage began? Have you reported it to the utility? 

Based on those answers, staff can decide to investigate further. Additionally, EDUs themselves are required to report outages to the PUCO outage coordinator, who will follow up to make sure power is being restored in a timely matter.

The PUCO has the ability to check if those occasional outages are representative of larger service issues.

What is considered a “larger service issue”? 

Staff at the PUCO review customer reported outages and service quality interruptions on a monthly basis, checking for issues that occur on multiple occasions or in the same area. The PUCO can also review outages from the past 24 months by individual circuits to see patterns in reliability.

EDUs are required to meet reliability standards, which are unique to each company and service territory. The most common three metrics for measuring reliability are:

  • SAIDI: System Average Interruption Duration Index, the total average duration of customer outages
  • SAIFI: System Average Interruption Frequency Index, how often the average customer experiences an outage
  • CAIDI: Customer Average Interruption Duration Index, the average time required to restore service

Utilities file publicly-available annual reports which detail outage causes on a system-wide basis. The data in these reports can exclude major events or outages caused by transmission lines, which are not part of the distribution system. If they fail to meet one of their standards for a year, they are required to provide a plan to address reliability. Missing a standard for two years is considered a rule violation, which could result in PUCO-ordered forfeitures or corrective action.

Additionally, utilities provide the PUCO with what are known as “worst-performing circuit” reports. Each EDU calculates a list of the bottom 8% of circuits and provide details on how and why reliability may suffer. Circuits that appear on the list three consecutive years may be considered a rule violation.

What can a customer do? 

If you experience a power outage, the first thing you should do is report it to your utility so they can monitor and restore service as soon as possible. If outage patterns persist or you are unhappy with the response, contact the PUCO Call Center.

Power outages can certainly be annoying and inconvenient, but they can also be life threatening. The PUCO is committed to ensuring Ohio’s utilities are putting cost-effective measures and procedures in place so the lights can stay on.

Information courtesy of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio