Responding to concerns about its tree pruning practices, Oncor has announced two pilot programs using ideas submitted by customers. The first will deploy a team of certified arborists who as part of the pre-planning process will personally meet with customers whose trees need to be pruned to minimize outages, and the second will allow the customers at their cost to decide on a minimum pruning option.
Both of these pilot programs are for the company’s distribution lines, most commonly found in neighborhoods, and not the transmission lines which are typically supported by large towers. Trees are the single largest cause of all outages in Oncor’s service territory and proper tree pruning dramatically reduces the number and length of outages while also ensuring the safety of utility workers and the public. The program will be tested in the Lakewood area of east Dallas, and results will be evaluated in early fall for consideration in other areas.
“We understand trees mean a great deal to homeowners, and we wish we never had to prune a tree,” says Brenda Pulis, Oncor’s senior vice president of distribution. “While our contractors must prune around distribution lines in order maintain safe and reliable electric service, our customers have consistently told us that they want to be able to speak in person about their concerns, and they want more options about how the trees are pruned. With these programs we’re trying our customers’ suggestions as pilot projects.”
For the pre-planning pilot, arborists will be visiting with customers prior to pruning to explain what they can expect and provide answers to their questions about the pruning that is needed. The arborists will be meeting at the customers’ homes so each cut on each tree can be discussed if the customer desires.
For the alternate tree maintenance agreement, customers will sign a contract agreeing to hire a line-clearance qualified tree company to prune their trees to a distance that best meets their needs. Oncor would prune the first seven feet away from the lines – maintaining the minimum required by the state and giving the customer time to shop for a line-clearance qualified tree company – allowing customers to decide how much more to prune. With the contract, the customer agrees to keep the lines outside of the seven-foot zone.
“Oncor recently announced its intention to reconnect with all customers and what we heard most is that they want to talk to us face-to-face and they like to have options,” Pulis says. “We can only build better relationships by being willing to try new things. We’re doing that here.”
Already, customers whose trees need to be pruned have the option to have their service lines buried or to reroute the lines at their expense to avoid their trees.