Richmond Power and Light continues to provide electricity for more than 99.9% of customer demand time.

General Manager Tony Foster presented the 2023 reliability numbers during the Feb. 5 RP&L board meeting. Members of Richmond Common Council comprise the board.

RP&L’s reliability was 99.9736% during 2023, which is actually a slight drop from the 99.988% reliability during 2022. It’s also the lowest number, by fractions of a percentage point, during the past seven years.

Animals, such as squirrels, birds and raccoons, created outages for 9,490 customers resulting in 846,582 lost customer minutes, according to statistics Foster presented. The worst animal outage was caused by an owl. The July 6 incident impacted 1,490 customers for 637,982 lost customer minutes.

Weather incidents, such as storms, wind and lightning, impacted 3,342 customers for 316,996 lost customer minutes. The worst incident involved high winds March 3, affecting 1,810 customers for 223,452 lost customer minutes.

Equipment failures, trees, vehicle accidents and fire also caused outages during 2023.

Foster said RP&L aggressively trims trees to reduce outages, and installs animal guards at substations and on distribution lines. It also has a program that moves neighborhood wires underground; however, that program has largely been suspended because of supply shortages.

Circuit breakers

Foster explained to the board problems with seven 69,000-volt circuit breakers at the Highland Road and Johns Manville substations. RP&L has difficulty closing the breakers after they have opened.

The model of breakers, which were installed during the mid-2000s, has been discontinued and replacement parts are no longer manufactured, Foster said. Most have been taken out of service nationwide, and the SF6 gas used in the breakers is banned in some states.

Foster requested board permission to order eight new Hitachi vacuum-operated breakers for $95,000 each, with four delivered late this year and four early in 2025. RP&L would pay $380,000 for this year’s breakers from its miscellaneous substation modification reserve fund, then budget $380,000 for the 2025 breakers.

The Johns Manville substation replacements would take priority, Foster said. The eighth breaker would enable RP&L to install it, then have the old breaker refurbished. The refurbished breaker would then replace another breaker that would be refurbished, with a continuing refurbishment rotation.

The board unanimously voted to order the eight breakers, which locks in the $95,000 price for all of them.

Bucket trucks

The board unanimously awarded the bid for a Parallax bucket truck to Global Rental Co. for $161,503.

Delivery is estimated on June 30. RP&L had $185,000 budgeted for the truck.

Global Rental, a division of Altec, was the only bidder. 

Foster also received permission to receive bids for a bucket truck for RP&L’s line department. The budgeted truck is expected to take two to three years for manufacture.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 14 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.