The Edison Electric Institute last week honored 14 electric utilities for their outstanding efforts to restore electric service or assist other utilities in restoring service following major storms or other natural events during 2007.
The "Emergency Recovery Award" and the "Emergency Assistance Award" are presented annually to U.S. and foreign-based member companies to recognize outstanding efforts in restoring disrupted electric service. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges following a national and international nomination process, and awards were presented during EEI's winter CEO meetings here Wednesday.
Receiving the "Emergency Recovery Award" were Alliant Energy, Ameren Corp., Central Vermont Public Service, Commonwealth Edison, the Empire District Electric Company and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (part of American Electric Power). Receiving the "Emergency Assistance Award" were American Electric Power, CenterPoint Energy, Entergy, FirstEnergy Corp., Indianapolis Power & Light, Kansas City Power & Light, OG&E and Westar Energy.
"The electric utility industry has a long and unswerving tradition of restoring power quickly and assisting fellow utilities in need when storms and other events disrupt service," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "These companies and their employees upheld that tradition and then some during the past year, working long hours in sometimes dangerous conditions across the nation to ensure that electricity was restored to customers as quickly as possible."
The 2007 award-winners faced numerous, significant electric restoration challenges during a year of powerful and damaging weather events. Following are descriptions of their efforts:
- Alliant Energy-Interstate Power and Light employees restored power to approximately 269,000 customers in the wake of a severe winter storm this past February in parts of Iowa and southern Minnesota. Despite challenging working conditions and the fact that most of IP&L's delivery system was inoperable, the company launched an aggressive and organized electricity restoration effort that utilized more than 1,500 crews working to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.
- Two winter storms of a severity rarely seen in Ameren's service territory caused outages to more than 1.1 million customers in and around the company's Missouri and Illinois territories. Ameren responded by aggressively and strategically deploying more than 4,000 electrical workers and 1,400 tree and vegetation workers, as well as hundreds of other employees, during each storm. Extreme and dangerous icy conditions during both storms made restoration work especially challenging, but Ameren maintained almost constant communications with customers both directly and via the news media throughout both efforts.
- Central Vermont Public Service more than tripled its 90-employee line force overnight and deployed 110 vegetation workers and 300 other employees in response to damage from an early-spring "Nor'icane" that took out power for 68,000 customers. The result was service restoration to 65 percent of affected customers after two days and 100-percent restoration within five days of the storm, with zero injuries to workers or members of the public.
- Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison saw 634,000 customers lose electricity service following the most severe summer storm to hit the company's northern Illinois service territory in 10 years. Six counties were declared federal disaster areas due to a combination of major flooding, 80,000 lightning strikes and winds up to 100 miles per hour. In what company officials called one of its best storm restoration performances ever, the utility re-established service to all affected customers within five days, including restoring 75 percent of those affected within one day and 90 percent within 48 hours.
- The Empire District Electric Company faced the task of restoring power to more than half of its customers after mid-January storms occurred in three waves over as many days across the company's service territory in southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. The company augmented its 300 line workers and 100 other deployed workers with more than 1,500 contractors from 14 companies in 10 states, and the crews braved continuing ice storms followed by sub-freezing temperatures and hazardous conditions to get the power back on.
- Public Service Company of Oklahoma more than doubled its workforce to restore power in the wake of a series of severe early-2007 ice storms. During the three-day period of storm activity, almost 100,000 customers experienced outages, some more than once due to the continuing nature of the storm damage. The company's exceptional emergency planning, quick and flexible response and effective management enabled restoration of service in a timely fashion.
- American Electric Power received its third "Emergency Assistance Award" in as many years, leveraging its seven utility operating companies in 11 states to help 10 other companies restore electricity during 12 major, weather-related outage events during the year. AEP employees and contractors worked more than 95,000 hours in helping to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers following ice storms, snow storms and thunderstorms, high winds and one hurricane, from New York to Louisiana and from Illinois to Texas.
- Houston-based CenterPoint Energy sent employees and equipment to assist outage restoration efforts in Oklahoma, Illinois and its home state of Texas during 2007, helping restore electricity in the wake of hurricanes, ice storms and high winds. The company expended more than 30,000 employee hours in helping to get the lights back on for thousands of electric customers.
- Entergy Corporation won the assistance award for the second consecutive year, marking the 10th time the company has won either that award or EEI's "Emergency Recovery Award" in as many years, an unprecedented accomplishment. Entergy came to the assistance of Public Service Company of Oklahoma early in 2007 after a severe mid-January ice storm left customers without power in the eastern part of the state. Coincidentally, Entergy deployed workers to Oklahoma a second time late in 2007 to help restore service following another ice storm in December.
- FirstEnergy Corp. received the "Emergency Assistance Award" for the second consecutive year. The company provided 95 employees and 57 trucks and expended more than 12,000 employee hours in helping restore power to parts of Chicago, northern Illinois and Indiana following the aforementioned series of damaging thunderstorms.
- Indianapolis Power & Light won the "Emergency Assistance Award" for the fourth time in five years. IPL sent employees and equipment to help restore power in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana during 2007, in each case following severe winter storms that caused terrific damage in those states. The company expended more than 2,800 employee hours in helping to get the lights back on for thousands of electric customers in the wake of snow, ice accumulations, high winds and below-zero temperatures.
- Kansas City Power & Light and its parent company, Great Plains Energy, garnered recognition from EEI for the second time in less than a year with its "Emergency Assistance Award." Great Plains Energy this past June received the Edison Award in recognition of innovative leadership and operational excellence in the electric utility industry, specifically on the part of KCP&L in planning for customers' future electricity needs. The utility won the assistance award this year by sending employees and equipment to outage events in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. KCP&L expended more than 24,000 employee hours in helping to get the lights back on for thousands of electric customers in the wake of damaging ice, wind and thunder storms.
- Oklahoma City-based OG&E employees worked almost 19,000 hours and logged more than 176,000 miles while helping other utilities restore electricity following four significant outage events in three states during the past year. The company sent its largest construction team ever (85 workers and 49 trucks) to Borger, Texas, to help restore electric service following a massive winter storm and also sent crews and equipment to help restore power following powerful ice storms in Missouri and Iowa and violent thunderstorms in Dallas.
- Employees of Westar Energy helped restore electricity to thousands of customers in the wake of six winter storms in five states during the year. All in all, Westar dispatched 342 workers, and those employees expended almost 40,000 accident-free hours providing restoration assistance in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.