PSC says KY Power had lax clearing procedures
by IVY BRASHEAR Staff Reporter
HAZARD The Public Service Commission (PSC) has determined that Kentucky Powers vegetation management practices favored clearing lines closer to substations, while neglecting clearing right-of-ways further away from substations.
The Commission determined this means Kentucky Power customers living further away from substations are more likely to experience power outages.
This investigation followed the power outages in December 2009 which left thousands of Kentucky Power customers without electricity for days.
Andrew Melynkovych, the director of communication for the Public Service Commission, said that Kentucky Power has agreed to change their line-clearing practices as part of their rate increase agreement.
The company has agreed to maintain their lines on four-year cycles and Melynkovych said this method of clearing lines is more typical of what other utility companies in the state do.
Obviously, the commission thinks this is a step in the right direction, Melynkovych said.
After the storm in December, over 75,000 Kentucky Power customers lost power, some remaining without power for two weeks. The PSC determined through its investigation that these outages were caused by trees and limbs falling on power lines.
As a result of the investigation, the Commission found that Kentucky Power has concentrated line-clearing on lines between substations and the first circuit breaker, line-clearing decreases in intensity as the distance from the substation increases, customers living farther away from substations experience significantly more outages than those living closer to substations, lines that are overgrown with vegetation decrease reliability and makes working conditions unsafe, and damages during the December 2009 storm were concentrated in areas where line-clearing was less-prevalent.
The PSC received numerous complaints form Kentucky Power customers after the storm and at public hearings hosted in May across the utilitys 20-county service area. Most of these complaints dealt with line-clearing practices.
Melynkovych said he didnt believe the company had any bad intentions by not clearing lines located further away from substations where terrain to get to them is often mountainous and rugged. He said he thought they were simply trying to be cost-effective, and serve the greatest amount of customers.
There was no bad intent on the part of Kentucky Power, Melynkovych said. They were just trying to do the most cost-effective thing (for them).
He said he was unsure of the cost of maintaining lines compared to repairing lines once they are damaged, but said that the new agreement with Kentucky Power in which they will begin four-year cycles of clearing all lines they maintain, will cost the company more money than they were previously spending on line clearing.
Melynkovych added that regardless of the amount of money spent, clearing right-of-ways for power lines is just sensible.
We do believe that all customers deserve the same level of service, Melynkovych said.
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