It’s always interesting to look back and compare our reliability data from year to year. In 2019, our top outage causes were power supply, trees and equipment failure, which is consistent with every other year going all the way back to 2012. Of those three, power supply (also known as transmission) comprised over 51% of total member minutes out.
Tipmont REMC is a distribution cooperative, meaning our responsibility is the last leg of delivering electricity to your home. Before we can do our part, the electricity must first be generated and then transmitted over long distances to our substations. Think of transmission lines as the interstate system while Tipmont’s system are the local roads and streets.
The problem in our case is that when a transmission line is interrupted, there is no alternative route for transmission to come from and we lose the electrical source to the substation that it serves. All the transmission to our substations is owned and operated under a joint agreement between Duke Energy and Wabash Valley Power. We are dependent on them to maintain and repair those lines when there is an issue.
In 2019, we had an unusually high amount of transmission outages, especially in Fountain County. I’m pleased to share that this month, Duke Energy is going to rebuild a portion of the static line that feeds our Yeddo, Mountain Road and Hillsboro substations in Fountain County. This comes in no small part because of increased pressure from our dedicated staff to recognize that this level of performance is simply unacceptable. While this is not a silver bullet, it should provide an improvement in this area going forward.
Another statistic we look at is total member minutes out. In 2019, the number of total member minutes out was about 48% higher than 2018. While this may seem like a large swing, it was heavily influenced by the increase in transmission outages noted above. It also rests on Mother Nature. One or two bad storms that cause widespread damage can significantly swing these numbers from year to year.
Our staff is constantly working on ways to reduce member minutes out by improving our response processes. For example, we continue to place devices on our system that allow us to remotely switch load from one substation to another, vs. having to send a crew of linemen to that location to flip a switch. In addition to reducing outage duration by saving that driving time, it also allows our linemen to focus on maintenance and growth work to keep our system operating at peak efficiency.
Electric reliability consistently ranks among the top important service aspects in our member surveys. Our electric triad – safe, affordable, and reliable – is our promise to you. We will work tirelessly to deliver on that promise and empower our communities with the essential service of electricity.