In a filing with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today, Florida Power & Light Co. reported delivering another year of outstanding reliability for customers in 2010 and outlined plans for continued investment in reliability and storm preparedness in 2011.
FPL's overall reliability continues to rank among the best in the nation as the company progresses on its long-term efforts to strengthen the infrastructure. This year, FPL will continue to focus on improving service reliability and storm preparedness throughout the distribution and transmission systems that serve more than 4.5 million customers.
"We want to thank our employees who work tirelessly to deliver outstanding reliability to our customers. Through our comprehensive reliability programs and investments, we are able to give customers more than 99.98 percent service reliability at prices that are 24 percent below the national average. While no utility can ever be 100 percent interruption-proof, we are committed to delivering exceptional value and service to our customers," said FPL President and CEO Armando J. Olivera.
FPL said it understands how much its customers depend on electricity and that any power outage is an inconvenience. In 2010, it continued to execute its long-term, comprehensive plan to deliver reliable electric service, in good weather and bad. As measured by the industry standard and according to the most recent data available, FPL customers on average experienced 81.3 minutes without power over the year, which is 32 percent better than the 2009 national average. The average annual number of interruptions that FPL customers experienced improved to 1.21 in 2010 while the company's average restoration time of 67.4 minutes per outage ranks second among major utilities' 2009 performance nationwide.
One of the most frequent causes of distribution outages is vegetation – tree branches, palm fronds or other plants coming into contact with power lines. To help reduce and prevent power outages and flickers for its customers, FPL cleared vegetation from more than 13,000 miles of distribution power lines and all transmission corridors last year. Florida is also the lightning capital of the United States. Lightning can cause power outages and flickers, which is why FPL Lightning Lab engineers are constantly testing equipment and researching ways to reduce its impact on the grid. Overall in 2010, FPL invested more than $100 million in distribution reliability programs, including vegetation management, priority feeders and overhead line inspections, to keep reliability high for customers. In 2011, FPL plans to clear vegetation along more than 12,000 miles of distribution power lines and to maintain a similar level of funding for reliability programs as in 2010.
FPL's comprehensive storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to respond safely and as quickly as possible in the event the electrical infrastructure is damaged by a storm. Weather causes outages every day, particularly in Florida, so these improvements also contribute to better everyday reliability for customers.
To prepare for storms, FPL thoroughly inspects utility poles for strength and health. The company remains ahead of its long-term inspection schedules for the system's more than 1 million distribution poles and 65,000 transmission structures. In 2010, the company inspected approximately 141,000 distribution poles and performed climbing inspections on 11,000 transmission structures. Since 2006, the company has inspected more than 660,000 poles throughout the distribution system, reinforcing and replacing them as necessary. In 2011, FPL plans to inspect at least another one-eighth of its distribution poles and complete the remaining first cycle of inspections on transmission structures. The projected cost of inspections and associated follow-up work this year is estimated at $80 million to $90 million.
To ensure the reliability and storm readiness of its high-voltage power lines, in 2010 FPL also upgraded 1,400 transmission structures from wood to concrete or steel and replaced ceramic post insulators on nearly 120 structures with more durable polymer post insulators. Today, the backbone of FPL's transmission system is more than 74 percent concrete and steel.
In addition, FPL invested more than $45 million in 2010 to strengthen the distribution infrastructure serving 26 emergency dispatch (911) facilities, 12 emergency operations centers (EOCs), one hospital and five community thoroughfares, which also benefited an additional 19 critical infrastructure facilities served by these same main power lines. By the end of 2010, FPL had completed strengthening the infrastructure serving every existing major hospital and acute care facility in its service territory and 66 percent of all 911 facilities and emergency operations centers. In 2011, FPL plans to invest another $45 million to $55 million to continue strengthening areas of the system serving additional critical facilities like these. Local community leaders helped the company determine the priorities of these targeted system upgrades, which help ensure facilities that provide for the safety, health or welfare of the public are strengthened to better withstand severe weather.
FPL is prepared and ready for this year's storm season, the company noted in today's PSC filing. Prior to the season's peak, FPL will continue conducting storm-strengthening and storm-preparedness initiatives. The efforts include vegetation clearing from power lines serving all top critical infrastructure facilities, extensive storm-restoration training for employees, the annual company-wide hurricane drill and the continued focus on improving outage communications.