The Diverse Terrain of Reliability Regulation: The View from Kentucky

Dec. 2, 2010
Setting utility-specific standards is a more complex and difficult exercise than setting a uniform standard for all companies.Read more...

It’s my pleasure to be here today to represent the Kentucky Public Service Commission and to describe for you Kentucky’s evolving approach to the issue of electric distribution system reliability.

Before I became a utility regulator, I was a country lawyer in eastern Kentucky – the fourth generation in a family law firm. Back then, when the lights went out at my home in Harlan, I usually tolerated the inconvenience and accepted it as part of the price of living in a particularly captivating, if somewhat remote part, of a beautiful and largely rural state. The occasional tree falling across a power line was nothing to get upset over. Unless, of course, the tree happened to fall during a University of Kentucky basketball game. In those instances, having no electricity became a crisis of unimaginable proportions - one which I and my neighbors were unable to tolerate for more than a nanosecond.

So it always seemed to me that any person’s response to a power outage is largely a matter of perspective – determined not only by the circumstances of the outage itself, but by the individual customer’s circumstances as well. In my case, if the power went out during a basketball game, and my dad had power, well, then it became time for some unscheduled father-son bonding.

Of course, taking the helm of a state utility regulatory commission has a way of altering your perspective on many things. Power outages and electric reliability are near the top of the list. In the last two and a half years, I have found that few things get the public’s attention as completely as a lengthy power outage or a persistent reliability problem. As a regulator, I have an obligation to be responsive to those public concerns....

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