derecho By NWS/Storm Prediction Center (NWS/Storm Prediction Center) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Look Back: Five Years After Derecho Storm

Appalachian Power and Kentucky Power outage reporting and response optimization: sunlight through the lens of storms’ fifth anniversary

Last week Appalachian Power took a look back at outage reporting and restoration improvements it has put in place in the years following the 2012 storm season.

One of that season’s storms, a so-called Derecho, pummeled Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee with heavy winds and pounding rain, leaving more than a half-million Appalachian Power customers were left without electric service. Appalachian Power reported that it took more than two weeks to get power back to everyone.

As the AEP subsidiary aptly put it, second only to restoring power, information is what customers want most when their power is out.  Since the Derecho, customers have continually let Appalachian know of the need for real-time updates on outages.

Due to the high public demand, Appalachian introduced a new outage alerts system that gives customers the option to be notified by text message or email when their home or business is affected by a power outage.

Customers receive a notification when outages have been reported in their area, and they continue to get updates as Appalachian crews determine the outage cause and predict when power will be restored.

“Outage alerts allow customers to receive real-time information updates whether they are home or away,” said Jeri Matheney, Appalachian spokesperson. “It’s a great tool for planning and making decisions about your family’s comfort and safety.  We aim to provide the most reliable electric service possible, at a reasonable price, and the best possible customer experience,” Matheney said, adding “text and email outage alerts are an important tool that will provide feedback to customers.”

Since the service was launched in March 2015, more than 148,000 Appalachian Power customers have enrolled. With wireless communication having become the expected norm across the United States, today, customers of all industries continue to demand improved service, quicker response times and real-time information — all through a mobile device.

Customers enroll in the service by visiting www.AppalachianPower.com/Alerts and logging into their account. Once logged in, users can choose what alerts they want to receive and how to receive them.

The five-year derecho anniversary, which was the end of a storm season where multiple outages impacted the region, led to a special regulatory account being created for another AEP subsidiary, Kentucky Power.  Four of Kentucky Power’s key storms were:

  • Feb. 19 snowstorm: 34,375 customers affected; 926 non-company restoration workers; four days to restore power; total costs to date – $4.15 million
  • March 2 tornadoes/wind storms: 15,363 customers affected; 718 non-company restoration workers; four days to restore power; total costs to date – $3.98 million
  • June 29 “derecho” wind storm/July 1 wind storm: 122,490 customers affected; 1,133 non-company restoration workers; six total days to restore power; total costs – $5.96 million
  • July 5 windstorm: 27,319 customers affected; 1,133 non-company restoration workers; two days to restore power; total costs – $967,000 Kentucky Power placed its total restoration costs for the four storms at more than $14.3 million. That number was then adjusted to account for operational and maintenance costs that would have occurred under normal circumstances and the amount Kentucky Power had in its annual budget for storm restoration, leaving the $12.15 million in the regulatory asset account.

Kentucky Power now provides its customers up-to-date outage information, including total customer outages and estimated times of restoration.  The online and mobile applications allow customers to search for an address, zoom in or out, or bookmark a view to see outage details, including estimated time of restoration, number of customers affected by the outage, and outage cause when available. If a customer’s power is out, they can report their outage, or sign in to get alerts about outage status.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission, under a 1/7/2013 order, authorized Kentucky Power to establish a special account, known as a regulatory asset, totaling $12.15 million.  In its application for the regulatory asset, Kentucky Power said the amount of major storm-related expenses in 2012 far exceeded the annual average of $904,000 that was used in the most recent calculation of the utility’s rates as the expected yearly expenditure for storm recovery. 

This type of regulatory asset provides a tool that allows unusual or one-time costs to be deferred for a period of time for possible future recovery through rates.

Appalachian Power’s recent press release is available at this link:  "Lessons learned from Derecho lead to Appalachian Power text and email outage alerts"

The T&D World story regarding regulatory treatment of Kentucky Power’s storm costs is at this link:  "PSC Allows Separate Accounting of Kentucky Power Storm Costs."

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