Message from the CEO
The hurricanes that recently impacted the southern United States and Puerto Rico are vivid reminders of the power of storms and the toll they can take on an electric distribution system.
While our state is nestled in the heart of the Midwest—far away from any hurricanes—we are not exempt from powerful natural disasters that can impact the poles, wires, and other equipment needed to provide reliable power to our members.
In fact, Iowa has experienced a total of 59 presidentially declared disasters—41 of which took place between 1990 and 2017. Our main hazards are associated with severe weather, including heavy rains, flooding, tornadoes, high winds, blizzards, heavy snow, and ice storms.
While the impacts of some disasters can’t be prevented, there are risks ECI REC can mitigate through proactive methods, such as tree trimming. As the winter season approaches— accompanied by heavy snow and ice— vegetation management becomes more important than ever.
Trees may seem harmless on a calm, sunny day, but add a bit of wind or ice on a stormy night and those beautiful structures may threaten your home’s electric supply. For example, outages can occur when branches— or entire trees—break and fall across power lines. In addition, when strong winds blow, limbs growing too close to lines may touch wires. The resulting momentary disruptions, or “blinks,” aren’t just mild annoyances that leave digital clocks flashing; they can damage computers, TVs, and other sensitive electronic equipment. However, regularly trimming trees and brush along power lines reduces the frequency of these outages.
ECI REC visually inspects our entire distribution system, including vegetation in our service territory, each year. In addition to these annual checks, our system-wide maintenance program includes a full pole inspection completed on a ten-year cycle. During these inspections, poles are checked for their structural integrity and to determine any weaknesses.
In 2017, approximately 70% of the outages ECI REC experienced were the result of severe weather, vegetation, or animals causing damage to or contacting our power lines. Our strategy going forward is to install underground lines, where economically feasible, on all new lines or line replacements. These underground lines will greatly reduce our exposure to those elements and result in a more reliable system.
When outages do occur, ECI REC can resolve them in an informed, orderly, and timely manner thanks to our enhanced outage management system. The automated metering system we are implementing in 2018 will further streamline outage restoration.
When it comes to Mother Nature, we know she is ultimately in charge. But, through our proactive planning and programs, ECI REC can work to lessen the impact on your electric service when bad weather hits.