By Tom Sobeck, President & CEO
On Dec. 15, 2021, the weather forecast called for sustained winds gusting to 60 mph, with the “potential for power outages” affecting the entire state. While we never exceeded 10,400 outages at any given time, our predictions showed over 22,000 services were out at some point. The state considers a storm catastrophic if more than 10% of customers lose power—or 3,500 services for us. Simply put, we’ve not experienced a storm of this magnitude in a long while, nearly setting a record for broken poles at 43!
Invariably, we receive calls from frustrated members who have lost power. I get it. I understand, and I’m certainly sympathetic to anyone without power for an extended time. The outages began early on Dec. 16, and the wind never slowed down until late the following evening. Crews would make repairs to a line, only to have the wind create new damage and additional outages on the very same line somewhere else. As the winds persisted, it was “one step forward, two steps back.”
No utility guarantees electric service to their customers 100% of the time, due to the realities of equipment failure, animals, and Mother Nature. This storm began on Thursday, and our linemen, crews, and all employees spent the entire weekend working extra shifts to answer phones, manage crews and equipment, and most importantly, to restore power as safely and as quickly to as many members as possible. There is a great deal of stress inherent in the process; it’s dangerous for linemen traveling the roads (and off-road into swamps and woods), working all hours of the day and night, and in the worst weather conditions. Office employees endure countless hours of speaking on the phone with people who are often in their most agitated state. As extensive events like this eventually come to an end, everyone inevitably reaches the end of their patience as well. It is at this point that we begin to realize how fortunate we are to have such knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated employees. Their expertise and willingness to continue working, regardless of personal circumstance, is remarkable. As members, some of you may have witnessed this devotion and skill in action. For the most part, that diligence is something typically only seen from the inside of PIE&G.
I take this opportunity to personally thank all our employees for their tireless efforts during this and all catastrophic storm events. I am truly humbled and proud to work with them. Unlike investor-owned utilities where the focus is on shareholders, at PIE&G, our focus is on you. So, I also extend our sincere thanks for the patience of all members who lost power during this storm. Some of you actually took the time to call us to say thank you too. It is tremendously uplifting to hear those calls and we appreciate that.
“I take this opportunity to personally thank all our employees for their tireless efforts during this and all catastrophic storm events. I am truly humbled and proud to work with them.”
One last item to address is our continued effort in the Energy Optimization/Energy Waste Reduction program that has been in place for several years now. We are no longer mandated to continue these programs, but our staff and board of directors recognize the value of helping you save energy, which also helps you save money on your electric bill. We’re working on the details of our 2022 program offerings, and invite you to look for more information soon on our website pieg.com, in our Spotlight newsletter, and in this magazine.