For nearly a decade, Peninsula Light Co. has focused on updating or replacing aging infrastructure to improve the service you receive at your home or business. Soon, that will change.
PenLight has invested about $6 million per year since 2007 to solidify service reliability. That’s when CEO Jafar Taghavi was hired, and his direction was to examine underperforming circuits and to prioritize their improvement. The major push was on the areas that serve the most people, as well as the Peninsula School District.
Tree wire, which has an insulated coating that helps to prevent outages when smaller branches contact our lines, was added to our reliability toolbox in 2014. It has been installed in areas where undergrounding was more expensive and wouldn’t prove to be more effective.
Additional efforts in 2015-16 – at about $8 million per year – helped us reach the top 25 percent of utilities in the nation in terms of outage frequency and duration. That accomplished a major goal we set when we were in the fourth quartile nationwide prior to 2007. Those results are compared with all utilities in all climates, not just those that are similar to us in size or region. We’re particularly proud considering the geographical challenges the Pacific Northwest presents: trees, slides and coastal wind storms.
While this 10-year reliability plan has been successful, many projects will be slowing down or beginning to sunset by 2018. Instead, our emphasis will shift to one that focuses on technology, from the way your meter communicates to our substations and billing system, to the way our grid will be able to detect an outage, isolate it to as few members as possible, and switch or re-route power to others in the vicinity – all within a fraction of a second. We also will build some additional redundancy into our system by linking together a few key circuits. In turn, that will allow for more switching capability in the future.
Our reliability efforts aren’t complete. In fact, staying in the first quartile in national indices might be more difficult than getting there in the first place. Our next steps will continue to build on the backbone that exists, and it will make our system more intelligent so we can learn about and respond to outages even faster than before.