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What’s the best time of day for an electric system outage?

What’s the best time of day for an electric system outage?

Having personally worked through outages at all times of day and night, every day of the week, in all kinds of weather, I’m pretty sure that there’s no best time. There are only times that are worse than others.

We all have come to rely on around the clock availability of safe, low cost electric energy. We all use it for food storage and preparation, home air conditioning and heating, water pumping, alarm clocks, entertainment, lighting, computers, telephones, and countless other devices that define our lifestyle. So when this little modern convenience-turned-necessity stops working, even for a few minutes, we all notice, and we don’t like it.

During the first five months of this year, we have experienced a record number of system wide outages, for a variety of reasons, at all times of the day. The one thing that these outages all share is this: None of them were located on the AEC system. They were all on the larger grid that we are connected to and take service from. Here are the statistics:

  • 8 system wide outages from January 1 through May 26, 2016
  • Total duration of all outages: 361 minutes (6 hours and 1 minute)
  • Percentage of down time: .17% 

Through May 26 (the date of this writing), which is a total of 147 days, or 3,528 hours, we were out of service for 6 hours and 1 minute, or .17% of the time.

Looking at it another way, our system was up 99.83% of the time during this period. From a reliability standpoint, this is actually pretty good. However, it’s still not acceptable. Our mission is to provide our members with the most reliable service possible, and we are continually working to improve our system equipment and reliability wherever we can.

Many factors are out of our control. For example, since every one of the 8 outages we’ve endured were not located on our system, we could not prevent them from occurring. In fact, no one could have. Here are the reasons for the outages, in order of occurrence:

  1. January 25- Pole fire on SCE structure
  2. March 11- Mylar balloon in SCE lines
  3. March 11- Palm frond in SCE lines
  4. April 2- Car hit SCE pole in Hemet
  5. April 2- Circuit re-routing due to previous auto accident
  6. April 2- Repairs to original circuit due to previous auto accident
  7. April 30- Lightning arrestor failure on SCE circuit
  8. May 26- Car hit SCE pole in Mountain Center

All of these issues occurred on SCE lines that we take our service from. Weather, balloons, and automobile accidents are every day events that are out of system operator control. The best that can be done for these events is to quickly locate the cause of the problem and effect repairs.

While back-up generation, more transmission lines, and other methods for avoiding some of these types of problems are available, none of them are cost effective. We are a very small cooperative, with limited resources. It is not in the best interest of the cooperative as a whole to go far into debt, raising rates to pay for fractional outage avoidance.

However, individual members have always been encouraged to invest in their own back-up sources. AEC strongly supports member use of emergency generators, especially for critical or life support equipment. We will be demonstrating a very simple battery/inverter resource at our Annual Membership Meeting in July.

There is no such thing as a good time to lose electric service. We all know that. While we cannot guarantee 100% perfect service, the professional staff and Board of Directors of Anza Electric Cooperative work continually to provide us all with the safest, efficient, reliable and affordable service possible. Thank you for your continued trust in us to accomplish that mission.

Kevin Short

General Manager




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