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First Energy speaks in Tucker

December 11, 2012
By Casey Houser - Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

The Tucker County Planning Commission heard from a First Energy representative Monday about the reliability of electric power in the area.

Allen Staggers, manager of external affairs at First Energy, presented a slide show to the commission that included statistics and information about how the power company services residents in Tucker County.

"There are three major substations that serve Tucker County," he said.

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Parsons, Blackwater and Canaan Valley all contain substations that feed distribution lines, Staggers said. Power plants feed distribution lines which, in turn, lead directly out of the substations and to customers' homes.

Two separate substations feed to each substation in Tucker. Parsons is connected to Loughs Lane and Blackwater, Canaan is connected to Blackwater and Seneca Caverns, and Blackwater is connected to Parsons and Canaan.

Staggers also mentioned reliability indexes which are used to measure the up- and downtime of customers in First Energy's coverage area.

The Customer Average Interruption Duration Index is the most essential, he said. It is a measure of how long, on average and in minutes, customers are without power.

"Average (power out) over the last three years is about 300 (minutes per customer)," Staggers said, when asked about the downtime for each customer.

He mentioned that the number of minutes sounds like a lot. But then he showed the group the percentage of uptime for each customer.

Graphs in his slideshow portrayed 99.8 percent as the lowest percentage of uptime for any customer per year in First Energy's coverage area.

"Most people have power most of the time," he said.

Staggers also showed the CAIDI numbers with and without major storms being factored.

The average of 300 minutes of power loss, listed earlier, is without major storms. When major storms are considered, the average number jumps to around 2,000.

However, reliability with major storms is still above 97 percent per year for Tucker County substations.

Staggers said that the Public Service Commission in Charleston will be reporting back to First Energy and making recommendations about future goals to meet, regarding uptime and downtime for their customers.

Staggers also responded to the Planning Commission about the possibility of changing the definition of "major storm" to help First Energy meet the guidelines of the Charleston PSC.

"There are accepted definitions of (what is) a major storm," Staggers said.

Planning commission members also asked about redundancy in the power grid.

Staggers said there is redundancy in the substations, but there is little or none in distribution lines, which is why fallen trees can so easily remove power to homes.

"(Power outages) depend on the weather," he said. "(It is) more dependent on the weather than any other factor."

Staggers finished by speaking about preventative measures, or ways to keep power outages from occurring in the first place.

He said approximately $250,000 was spent last year on right-of-way maintenance in the areas serviced by Blackwater and Parsons substations. This year, a total of approximately $800,000 will be spent across the entire county.

Right-of-ways are only 30 feet wide, he said. This leaves a lot of potential for large trees to fall and take out lines.

In the case of trees that are seen as being immediately hazardous and out of the 30-foot right-of-way, property owners can be approached and the owners can allow First Energy to cut down trees on private property.

Staggers recommended that all customers link their phone numbers to their First Energy accounts. During a storm, he said, it can be hard for a customer to find his or her account number, but phone numbers linked to an account can make the process smoother.

He said once a customer's location has been identified, through an account number or phone number, the power company can better respond to an outage.



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