SCE Crews on the Scene: Regular Maintenance Outages Help Lead to Reliable Power

We recently sat down with one of SCE’s directors in Transmission & Distribution to discuss questions often asked by customers about maintenance outages.

August 12, 2014 | By David Song @SCE_DavidS

To provide safe and reliable electricity to customers throughout a 50,000-square-mile service territory, Southern California Edison (SCE) schedules thousands of maintenance outages each year. With an aggressive work schedule, it’s a challenge to complete all the necessary work to help maintain a reliable electric grid.

The Edison Newsroom recently spoke with Nestor Martinez, SCE director of Distribution Construction and Maintenance North/West Division, Distribution Business Line, Transmission & Distribution, about maintenance outages, the scheduling process, how customers are notified and alternatives to scheduling outages during peak hours on summer days.

Q: How many maintenance outages does SCE schedule annually?

A: In order to make the necessary upgrades to its electric distribution network, SCE must conduct more than 20,000 maintenance outages a year. This number could go up as we embark on a multi-year infrastructure improvement project across the service territory.

Q: Why is the number of projects increasing over the next couple of years? 

A: From time to time, it’s necessary to temporarily turn off the power so that our crews can safely install upgrades or make repairs to the grid. Doing so ensures that repair outages — unexpected outages — are limited and the reliability of the system is not compromised. We want the power grid to be modern, reliable and absolutely up-to-date. The crews you see out in your community are doing this one pole, one transformer, one vault or one foot of cable at a time.

Q: What type of work is done during a maintenance outage? 

A: Most maintenance outages are for replacement of components on SCE’s network. Other outages are associated with customer requests, such as supplying power to new homes or businesses.

Q: What factors does SCE take into consideration before scheduling an outage?

A: Although maintenance outages are generally shorter in duration and affect fewer customers than repair outages, SCE understands that any ongoing maintenance work is an inconvenience, so we isolate outages down to the smallest area possible and complete the work as quickly as we safely can. We do this by ensuring that adequate resources are available, including field crews, materials, equipment, and appropriate permits are obtained and our customers receive notification. Other factors considered include:

  • Public and employee safety. 
  • Criticality of electrical components to be replaced.
  • Regulatory requirements.
  • Impact to critical services, such as fire stations or hospitals, which will be interrupted. 
  • Governmental agency requirements such as constraints related to work hours and street/traffic restrictions. 
  • Major holidays. 

Q: How much advanced notice of a maintenance outage does SCE give its customers?

A: Notice is typically provided five days in advance of a maintenance outage. Communicating with customers is very important to us. They have a right to know exactly what’s going on with their service. 

Q: How are customers notified of these scheduled outages?

A: SCE sends a brightly colored postcard to impacted customers with the following information: 

  • Why outages are important.
  • How to prepare. 
  • Safety tips.
  • Where to get additional information. 

Q: Are there alternatives to scheduling outages during peak hours on summer days (such as overnight as some customers have suggested)?

A: SCE schedules maintenance outages so they can be completed as safely and cost effectively as possible while minimizing inconvenience to our customers.  

Q: What impact does weather have on scheduling maintenance outages?

A: SCE continuously monitors weather conditions and considers extreme temperatures and other factors when determining whether to move forward with a scheduled outage. When temperatures are extreme for SCE’s service area, the company assesses the feasibility of rescheduling, deferring or mitigating outages on a case-by-case basis when there is no negative impact to the public, employee safety or service reliability. 

Q: What is the amount of notice time SCE gives when a scheduled outage date will be rescheduled?

A: Notices of a rescheduled or canceled outage are generally provided one to three days in advance, whenever possible. However, unforeseen circumstances occasionally result in last-minute cancellations. 

Notifications are made via phone up to, and including those that are canceled by noon the day before the scheduled outage. Same-day cancellations are communicated to Medical Baseline and assigned business customers via SCE’s Automated Outage Communication system via email, text, voice and TTY.

Q: How does SCE handle complaints raised on its website?

A: If you have any questions or concerns, we are here to take your calls and answer your emails. SCE makes every effort to respond to all customer concerns. In many cases, the complaints are routed to the appropriate departments for a direct response. These responses are often routed to the company’s Contact Center or Consumer Affairs office where a representative will personally contact the customer to discuss their concerns.

For more information about outages, visit SCE’s outage webpage.

Topics: Customer Service, Infrastructure