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New York Commission Reviews Performance of the State's Large Public Utilities

June 22, 2021
PSC receives reports on electric reliability, electric and gas safety, customer service.

The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) reviewed the state's major utilities in terms of their performance in a number of key areas in 2020, including electric reliability service, gas safety, electric safety, and customer service. As part of the review, the Commission reduced the revenue of two of the state's largest utilities — Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc. (Con Edison) and New York State Electric & Gas Corp. (NYSEG) — for failing to meet reliability targets.

"While most utilities are doing a good job providing safe and reliable service, four utilities have fallen short of our expectations in certain areas and we will continue to act aggressively to ensure utilities improve performance," said Commission Chair John B. Howard. "Further, as a result of this analysis, it is clear that utilities must be ready to address more frequent and powerful storms."

Electric Reliability

Department staff presented its annual review of the electric service reliability performance of the New York State electric utilities for 2020. The Commission relies on two primary metrics to measure performance: the System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI or frequency) and the Customer Average Interruption Duration Index (CAIDI or duration).

By compiling interruption data provided by the individual utilities, the average frequency and duration of interruptions can be reviewed to assess the overall reliability of electric service statewide. Recent data for the prior year is also compared with historic performances to identify positive or negative trends.

Excluding major storms, the statewide interruption frequency for 2020 improved slightly compared to last year and the statewide five-year average. The statewide interruption duration, excluding major storms, was better than last year's index of 2.05 hours, resulting in restoration occurring, on average, approximately three and a half minutes faster. Including major storms, 2020 had the worst performance for frequency, duration, and customer hours of interruption over the past five years.

The most significant event influencing reliability performance, including major storms, was Tropical Storm Isaias, which occurred beginning on Aug. 4. Nearly 1.5 million customers experienced power outages during this event. Con Edison's and PSEG-LI's service territories were the hardest hit with more than one million customers interrupted. By Aug. 9, 90% of customers who had lost power were restored, with full restoration occurring on Aug. 14.

Under Commission rules, companies are subjected to negative revenue adjustments for failing to meet their reliability targets. As a result, Con Edison incurred a negative revenue adjustment of US$5 million because of exceeding its network frequency target, which excludes major storms. The NYSEG incurred a negative revenue adjustment of US$7 million also because of exceeding its frequency target, excluding major storms. Negative revenue adjustments are paid by shareholders and not by ratepayers. All other electric utilities met their reliability targets in 2020. Utility performance before, during, and after Tropical Storm Isaias is the focus of several separate, ongoing proceedings, including 20-E-0586.

Electric Safety

The Commission established electric safety standards to safeguard the public from exposure to stray voltage and to identify and eliminate potentially harmful conditions before serious safety hazards and/or reliability deficiencies develop. The standards include, among other requirements, stray voltage testing of streetlights and electric facilities that are accessible to the public. In 2020, manual stray voltage testing was performed on approximately one million utility facilities statewide, resulting in the identification of 291 stray voltage conditions.

The overall total of stray voltage findings decreased by 42% from the 2019 level. In 2020, there were 110 calls from customers reporting shock incidents that resulted in 91 confirmed cases of stray voltage; 33 incidents were caused by problems with utility-owned facilities and 58 incidents were traced to defective customer-owned equipment or wiring. All stray voltage findings identified through testing or from customer calls were made safe. Because all of the test and inspection requirements were met, no revenue adjustments were imposed.

Gas Safety

Department staff evaluated critical areas of gas safety, including damage prevention, emergency response times, leak management, and non-compliances identified through staff's audit process. Overall, the data indicates that performance has substantially improved for gas companies across the state over the 18-year period these metrics have been in place. More notably, utility performance either improved or remained consistent throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It's important to note that the utilities maintained focus on these performance measures, which ensured the same, if not a greater level, of public safety.

Damage prevention, mismark, and no-call damages saw improved performance, and utilities and their contractor damages remained consistent in 2020. All utilities met the emergency response time targets with the total year-end leak backlog improving roughly 14.1% from the previous calendar year. Both the total number of leaks discovered and leaks repaired declined substantially.

Customer Service

Most of the state's utilities met or exceeded the standards for performance on measures of customer service established within their respective rate case proceedings, with the exception of the NYSEG and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. (RG&E). The NYSEG and the RG&E failed to meet their respective estimated meter reads targets. As a result, negative revenue adjustments are applicable to the NYSEG and the RG&E totaling US$1.4 million and US$1.8 million, respectively. Because of the impacts of COVID-19, the NYSEG and the RG&E have filed a petition to waive the meter reading requirements, which is pending before the Commission.

Other than the NYSEG and the RG&E, the major utilities met or exceeded their established annual customer service performance standards. Although certain utilities exceeded their targets on minimizing terminations and uncollectibles, which were eligible for positive revenue adjustments (PRAs), the results were driven by the moratorium on disconnects, and as such, all of the utilities' PRAs have either already been forfeited or are under review to be waived.

The reports in these proceedings may be obtained by going to the Commission Documents section of the Commission's website here and entering the following Case Numbers in the input box labeled 'Search by Case Number': Electric Safety (21-E-0177); Electric Reliability Performance (21-E-0113); Gas Safety (21-G-0165); and Customer Service (21-M-0046). Commission documents may also be obtained from the Commission's Files Office, 14th floor, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York State 12223 (518- 474-2500).

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