Verendrye Achieves Record for 2017 Outage Time
2017 Average Outage time less than one hour
Verendrye Electric reached a major milestone in 2017 by limiting the average outage time per meter to less than one hour. The official tally was 42 minutes per meter.
“Occasionally we’ve came close to the one-hour mark – which is the holy grail of outages – but we’ve never been below one hour,” said Engineering and Operations Manager John Westby.
The average outage time, referred to in the utility industry as the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI), is calculated by adding up the total duration of all of the outages at each metering point during the year and dividing it by the number of meters in the system.
“It was certainly a record year,” said VEC Manager Randy Hauck. “We’ve had a goal to be below one hour for many years. It took a team effort by all of our employees and a lot of planning, maintenance and technology.”
Relatively good weather was one of the factors that helped Verendrye limit outage times, but it was still the leading contributor to average outage time, adding about 11 minutes to the total. Other reasons for outages were public accidents, planned outages, equipment failure, age, animals and power supply issues.
Westby said it was also a good year for transmission reliability. Transmission lines have a higher voltage than the distributions lines carrying power to your homes or business. When a transmission line losses power, it affects a higher number of consumers than if a distribution line does.
Central Power Electric Cooperative provides the transmission infrastructure to deliver power to Verendrye’s system, but the two cooperatives work together closely to minimize outages. Verendrye’s Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) helps Verendrye monitor and control substations and the transmission system. Verendrye’s dispatchers can remotely switch power lines when there is an outage, making it possible to restore power in minutes in some cases.
Preventative maintenance also helps reduce outage times. Verendrye has to plan how and when it replaces aging infrastructure including poles, power lines, transformers and other equipment. Verendrye has around 4,600 miles of power lines and 60,000 poles. Inspections are done annually and the oldest or most worn infrastructure is replace each year. Tree trimming is also part of maintenance that can prevent outages occurring. Verendrye spent about $X.X million on maintenance in 2017.
“You’ve got to spend some money to get a low outage time,” Westby said.
Preventing outages from happening is the goal, but when they do happen, Verendrye employees work hard to restore power. The average outage restoration time was less than 2 hours in 2017.
Outage restoration is a team effort. The front line of outage notifications is the customer service representatives who take the initial calls, sometimes being flooded with many calls in the case of a widespread outage. Once they take the calls, they either record the information in the computer system or send the call to workers in the dispatch center. Outages calls are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Once dispatchers get a general idea of the area affected by an outage, they are able to send a signal to meters in the area. If the meter does not send a signal back to the office, dispatchers know that location is out of power. Each meter that is without power shows up as a dot on a screen. This allows dispatchers to pinpoint the affected areas before linemen are sent to the scene.
When extreme events like the 2001 flood or 1983 ice storm are excluded from the outage time calculations, average outage time has decrease steadily over the decades. The average outage time was nine hours in 1960, but has been less than two hours a year each year since 1986.
VECs average outage time was also significantly lower than the state and national numbers. Data from 2016, the latest available, shows the national average outage time at nearly 3.5 hours and the state average at almost 4 hours. VEC’s five-year average is less than 1.5 hours.
“We know our members depend on reliable power and I’m proud of the work our team of employees has done to keep the lights on,” Hauck said.