Reliability

Behind the scenes at PEC during an outage

How PEC’s Control Center manages an outage from first call to power restoration

Losing power can be stressful, but PEC jumps into action to get your power restored as quickly and safely as possible after you report an outage. PEC has a process in place that pairs modern technology with our dedicated team of lineworkers to get your power back on.

Before you report an outage

When your power goes out, you should always check the breakers in your home before reporting it to PEC. Most homes have two breakers, one on your side of your meter and one inside your home in the main fuse box. If you reset them and your power is still off, it’s time to report your outage.

Detecting the issue

If PEC’s power lines are its nerves, our Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in the Control Center is its brain. From this darkened room, highly trained PEC operators tirelessly monitor an electrical system that spans across 8,100 square miles of the Texas Hill Country. They see power fluctuations on the PEC electrical system and take action — making calls, contacting crews, and remotely operating electrical equipment.

When you report an outage, our system’s software checks to determine whether your meter is online. If it is offline, SCADA immediately dispatches a lineworker to investigate the issue.

If your meter is the only one reported offline in the area, the lineworker will be dispatched directly to the transformer. If you are part of a larger outage, system analytics will help to predict the source of the outage and the lineworker will be dispatched to that location first. Status lights (called fault indicators) also help determine the location of an issue by flashing when they sense abnormally high current. If a fault indicator is flashing, we know that the issue must be farther down the line.

Restoring power

Once the issue has been identified, additional crew members may be dispatched. Using the highest safety measures, our lineworkers begin making any necessary repairs. The crew also calls our Control Center to report the cause of the outage and provide an estimated time of restoration (ETR) if possible. You can follow our progress and see the ETR at pec.coop/outages.

During larger outages, you may wonder how PEC prioritizes its restoration efforts. Repairs are done in a methodical way that starts from the substation and works down the line from there. Our data can provide an approximate distance from the substation to the problem, but it will be less accurate the farther the issue is down the line. This process allows us to restore power to the greatest number of members in the least amount time.

 

Data analysis for reliability

Every outage is monitored and data is collected for analysis so we can improve our reliability. The key data point for all power utilities when it comes to reliability is the system average interruption duration index (SAIDI). SAIDI is calculated by adding the total number of minutes of downtime and dividing by the total number of customers served. For example, if an outage affects a neighborhood and 10 meters are down for 50 minutes, every meter is counted toward the total; in this case a total of 500 minutes of downtime. By this measure, PEC is one of the most reliable utilities in Texas, averaging only 54 minutes of outage time per account in 2018.

PEC also uses SAIDI measurements to track the 10 worst performing substation feeders in our service area. Knowing which feeders and areas have the greatest downtime allows us to focus on those members whose service needs improving the most. These improvements go a long way toward ensuring we provide excellent service to all of our members. Our goal is that no meter will appear on the 10 worst performing list two years in a row.

Maintenance matters

You might assume that on calm weather days, the control room is quiet. However, there are no days off at SCADA. On days where there are few, if any, outages, the focus turns to maintenance. With unprecedented year-over-year growth occurring across PEC’s service area, updating and maintaining our equipment is an everyday job.

Longevity tracking helps us identify equipment that may be reaching the end of its life so that we can prioritize it for maintenance or replacement. Load tracking is also crucial, as some areas may have grown to the point where the demand on the power system exceeds the equipment’s capacity. When this happens, PEC will upsize equipment to meet demand before unplanned outages occur.

With these important processes in place, you can rely on PEC to keep the lights on.