The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) has opened an investigation into how Kentucky’s electric distribution utilities measure reliability and how they manage vegetation in their rights of way.

In an order issued Dec. 12, the PSC required regulated electric distribution utilities to provide information on how they keep track of outages. The Commission also ordered the utilities to provide information on tree trimming and other measures used to prevent vegetation from contacting lines and disrupting service.

“The opening of this investigation does not imply that Kentucky’s utilities are falling short in reliability,” PSC Chairman Mark David Goss said. “But the information we collect in this proceeding will assist the Commission in determining whether there is a need for standards both for reliability reporting and vegetation management.”

The investigation is the result of recommendations made last year in a PSC report on Kentucky’s electric infrastructure. That report noted that utilities are not required to and do not report reliability data in a standard way.

Similarly, Kentucky does not set parameters for vegetation management, the report noted. Setting clearance requirements for vegetation could help prevent some outages, the report said.

In this order, the PSC noted that Kentucky law requires utilities to assure their customers of “reasonable continuity of service.” PSC regulations require service to be restored as quickly as possible and set standards for reporting outages to the Commission.

The first step in the investigation will be the collection of data from utilities. A public hearing has been scheduled for May 23, 2007. Parties wishing to become participants in the proceeding should submit their written requests to the PSC by Jan. 11, 2007. Anyone wishing to submit public comments may do so prior to or at the public hearing.

This order is accompanied by a data request to all regulated electric utilities. The questions include:

  • How does the utility monitor distribution system reliability?
  • How are outages detected, measured and recorded?
  • What parameters are recorded for each outage?
  • How is reliability calculated?
  • What standards does the utility use in trimming trees?
  • What local codes or ordinances affect vegetation management?
  • How often are easements cleared, by whom, and at what cost?