Does AEP do a good job keeping the power on? State thinks so

  • Jonathan Quilter | Dispatch file photo
    A crew from AEP works on removing a large piece of metal from a high-voltage power line next to Interstate 270 on the West Side on July 11, 2013. A storm that passed through Ohio the previous day left more than 150,000 AEP customers without power, and the average outage lasted about 19 hours.

April 2, 2014

Every regulated electric utility in Ohio got passing marks for reliable service last year.

American Electric Power had an average of 1.03 failures per customer with an average duration of 140.97 minutes, excluding major storms, according to documents made public yesterday. The company was aiming for results that were less than 1.2 outages and 150 minutes.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio sets the standards and can impose penalties on companies that repeatedly fall short.

But the standards and results come with some fine print. The figures do not include failures related to major storms. Also, an outage must last at least five minutes to count.

The standards vary from company to company. For example, the outage-duration target ranges from a high of 150 minutes for AEP to a low of 112.33 minutes for Toledo Edison. The PUCO has said it customizes the rules for each company to reflect differences in terrain and population density.

“We’re pleased that we were able to exceed the reliability targets established by the PUCO,” said AEP spokesman Jeff Rennie.

“We are also pleased that we continue to make progress with our tree-trimming efforts and our reliability efforts, and we’re hoping to get those numbers even lower.”

This is the first year that AEP is reporting all of its Ohio results as one company. Previously, it had two operating companies, Ohio Power and Columbus Southern Power. The two have merged, and their standards are a blend of the two predecessor companies.

“We appreciate that the electric utilities have met Ohio’s standards regarding limits on outages,” said Marty Berkowitz, spokesman for the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, a consumer advocate. “The standards are the result of cases where the utilities, OCC and others make their different proposals for how much outage time is acceptable for consumers.  OCC’s recommendations have been to minimize the frequency and duration of outages.”

In 2011 and 2012, Columbus Southern failed to meet its standard for the number of minutes per failure. By missing two times in a row, the company was subject to potential penalties. The PUCO decided not to take any action because Columbus Southern had barely missed the standard and had shown evidence of improvement, a commission spokesman said.

The standards were designed to hold companies accountable for their reliability in normal conditions, regulators have said. This is why major storms are not included.

Last year, there were five major storms in AEP territory, as defined by state rules. The largest was on July 10 when 154,537 customers lost power and the average outage was about 19 hours.

If the storm-related outages were included for the year, the average customer had 1.4 outages, up from 1.03 without storms, and an average outage of 246.03 minutes, up from 140.97.

AEP serves about 1.5 million customers in Ohio. Its territory covers most of central Ohio and also includes Lima, Canton, Marietta and Athens.

Duke Energy, which serves the Cincinnati area, came the closest to missing a standard, with an average outage duration of 117.8 minutes, coming in just below the standard of 118.14 minutes.