A major ice storm knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residential and commercial customers seven years ago in the Kansas City, Missouri, U.S., metropolitan area. While the storm restoration effort would have been challenging for a single electrical utility, it became even more complicated because of the fact that multiple companies serve the metropolitan area.

Four major electric utilities — The Board of Public Utilities, Independence Power & Light, Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light — have their own applicable electrical service standard requirements for their respective territories. For that reason, it became critical for the companies to find a way to work together to provide improved customer service and faster response times.

Joint Effort

Three years ago, the utilities began looking for ways to make the service standards uniform between the electric service providers. In late 2006, the utilities established the Kansas City Metro Electric Utilities Committee (KCMEUC).

The committee's first major project was to see if a generic overhead residential meter socket could be used anywhere in the metropolitan area during a major storm event. Each electric utility has its own meter socket specifications, which did not allow one version to be used in a different utility's area. The utilities worked with meter socket suppliers to determine how to provide the greatest number of meter sockets.

After several months, the criteria for the storm meter socket were completed. The criteria provided nine requirements:

  1. A minimum/maximum dimension for the meter socket
  2. Locking mechanism
  3. Four or five lugs
  4. Used only on overhead, residential services
  5. ANSI, small hub top entrance
  6. 200A, self-contained meter application
  7. Horn bypass was acceptable
  8. Hex-head lug, preferred, no star
  9. Approved meter socket vendors.

Each of the electric utilities created and approved a standard. The companies then presented the information to the local meter socket suppliers and manufacturers. When a major storm hits the area, the utilities can contact these vendors and activate the standard.

Following upon this work, the utilities formed the KC Metro Standards Committee and named the Electric League as the facilitator to address issues including differing code requirements and storm service reconnect provisions. This group meets quarterly, with more than 15 city jurisdictions and three counties presently participating in the meetings and more joining yearly. The National Electrical Contractors Association of Kansas City also has agreed to become a member, along with independent electrical contractors.

KC Metro Standards Committee

One of the committee's major achievements is the development of a Storm Event Service Reconnect Provision. This document lists each jurisdiction's requirements for reconnect after a storm and covers questions about permits, utility reconnects, inspections, contractor licensing requirements and contact numbers. Presently, the committee is evaluating a way to allow qualified electricians/contractors to cut meter seals to do service work with the utilities' permission. If approved by the KCMEUC, the Electric League would provide formal training and maintain a list of qualified electricians/contractors.

The electric utilities continue to meet and address issues regarding standardizing materials, electric service requirements, interaction with cities, counties and municipals, and continuing education and training.

Moving Forward

The KCMEUC has modified each of their service standards so that all new 200-A residential underground services are installed in 3-inch (76-mm) conduit.

The utilities are also reviewing standard burial depths for residential electric services, the stand-off clearance for underground services at a utility pole, the commercial electric service standards and bonding/grounding issues.

Chris Hedges (chris@christopherhedgeselectric.com) is an electrical contractor and a former president of the Electric League of Missouri and Kansas.

Royce McMahon (royce.mcmahon@kcpl.com) is the vice president, engineers, for the Electric League of Missouri and Kansas and manager of T&D engineering at KCP&L.

Editor's note: The Electric League of Missouri and Kansas (www.electricleague.org) was established in 1912 to serve utilities, electric supply wholesalers, engineers, contractors, architects, manufacturer representatives and manufacturers. The organization has 95 member companies in the two-state region and represents more than 300 individuals.