Significant progress was made during 2006 to enhance service reliability for customers of FirstEnergy Corp.'s Pennsylvania utilities, according to the utility.
"The investments we've made in our distribution and transmission systems are beginning to deliver higher quality service to our customers," said Douglas S. Elliott, president of FirstEnergy's Pennsylvania operations. "We're especially gratified that customers have recognized the improvements we're making, as evidenced by a 62 percent drop in service reliability complaints to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) since 2003."
Since the November 2001 merger with GPU, Inc., FirstEnergy has spent more than $1.3 billion on capital projects, operations and maintenance for its Pennsylvania utilities. In the last two years, more than 14,000 protective devices have been added to help reduce the number of customers affected by outages. In addition, thousands of new poles, miles of wire and other electrical devices have been installed to further enhance reliability. In 2007, the company expects to spend more than $300 million on additional protective devices, upgrades and replacements for its Pennsylvania utilities.
To help ensure that it has the skilled workforce necessary to continue delivering reliability improvements, the company also has established Power Systems Institute (PSI) programs at three Pennsylvania schools - Clarion University, Reading Area Community College and Pennsylvania Highlands Community College. This two-year, associate degree program combines classroom instruction with hands-on training to prepare students for careers as line workers and substation electricians. And, PSI provides the companies with a source of well-trained, skilled employees in the future.
"While we have made significant strides since our merger, it takes time to realize the kind of improvements we are working to achieve," said Elliott. "I am confident we have turned the corner, and we remain committed to doing what is necessary to meet our reliability goals."
In 2006, Penelec and Penn Power reduced the average duration of customer outages by more than 40 percent and the number of customers affected by outages by more than 20 percent - with both companies meeting three key related annual reliability standards set by the PUC. Penelec also met a special reliability improvement goal set by the PUC for reducing the duration of outages a year ahead of schedule. And, Penn Power's 2006 performance nearly met its 2007 goal, falling just a few minutes short.
Met-Ed met the reliability standard for average time to restore customers in 2006, but did not meet the other two standards. To further enhance reliability, the company plans to install an additional 5,000 protective devices in 2007. Met-Ed also is participating in a focused audit being conducted by an independent expert who will help identify additional steps that could be taken to improve reliability. The audit is scheduled to be completed in the second quarter of 2007.
Met-Ed serves 534,000 customers within 3,300 square miles of eastern and southeastern Pennsylvania. Penelec serves 588,000 customers within 17,600 square miles of northern and central Pennsylvania. Penn Power serves 158,000 customers within 1,100 square miles of western Pennsylvania.