Pennsylvania saw record number of storm outages in 2017, report finds

Published on August 02, 2018 by Kevin Randolph

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Electric utility customers in Pennsylvania experienced a record number of reportable outage events during 2017, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) Electric Service Reliability Report released Tuesday.

The report noted 50 reportable outages this past year, the highest number since the PUC began collecting data in 1993 and an increase from just 20 outage events during the previous year. The report also found that 2017 storms disrupting power to 1.3 million customers, approximately twice the number for 2016.

According to the Public Utility Code, an outage event is a service disruption involving five percent of total customers or 2,500 customers, whichever is less, for six or more consecutive hours.

Severe spring and summer thunderstorms caused almost all of the 2017 outages. This differs from previous years in which a small number of high-impact storms like Hurricanes Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012) or Winter Storm Nika (2014), caused spikes in outages.

The report also noted the reliability challenges posed by trees, including those outside utility right-of-ways. Fallen trees or tree limbs caused approximately 50 percent of the total minutes of service interruptions in 2017.

The Electric Service Reliability Report includes several recommendations for improving reliability including improved tree cutting and trimming-related initiatives; accelerated replacement of aging infrastructure; and implementation of a formalized and sustainable reliability improvement initiative to foster operational excellence.