YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There has been a lot of talk about power outages in the Valley. Our weather is something that pushes the power grid to its limits. Storms, heat, ice and snow all play a role in service interruptions.

But not all power outages are caused by severe weather. There are equipment failures, wildlife and even human error, like crashes and trucks, that pull down power lines.

All those interruptions are recorded, archived and used to determine how an energy provider is evaluated. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) looks at all outages, causes and restoration times, and there are limits to what is acceptable.

The measurements are called the CAIDI standard, or the Customer Average Interruption Index. Numbers are assigned by using a formula that calculates the sum of customer interruption durations divided by the total number of interruptions. Major events are excluded, such as severe weather or other events that stress the distribution system. Days that qualify as major events are excluded from reliability performance calculations for the year but are still recorded in a separate report.

For instance, First Energy (Ohio Edison), which provides service to most customers in the Valley, has not, on average, exceeded its limit when it comes to allowable outages and their durations. Taking a look at 2021 numbers, the standard CAIDI is 114.37 average minutes per customer interruption. Ohio Edison recorded 102.12 minutes, below the standard and acceptable. It did report an average outage duration over by about two minutes above the standard in 2019, but from 2010 to 2021, excluding 2019, it was well below the allowable duration.

While the PUCO was alerted to that overage in 2019, it was not egregious, according to regulators. However, AES, which provides power to the Miami Valley, is under review right now because it failed to fall below allowable limits three years in a row.

Ohio Edison’s 2021 annual report shows they recorded an average of 115.65 duration minutes with a standard of 114.37 before exclusions, which includes weather, keeping in mind the PUCO takes into account duration numbers when there is severe weather and when there is not. In Ohio Edison’s case, they exceeded the duration time by just over one minute.

If you talk to some customers in Girard and Austintown, they may say that those numbers don’t reflect the multiple outages that they’ve seen. First Energy spokesperson Lauren Siburkis said that they are overhauling the system with a modernization plan. Plan One has already been implemented, and Plan Two two is in the works, pending PUCO approval, and customers in those communities will see the benefits by winter.

“We work to prevent and minimize outages. Some things are out of control, but we are rolling out upgrades, and not all customers will see those all at once. The modernization work that we’ve done has proven successful, especially in the Mahoning Valley, and we are working on Plan Two,” Siburkis said.

Large events were recorded for Ohio Edison, such as a pole fire that cut power for over 2,000 minutes or an insulator failure that left service out for over 5,000 minutes. Every instance is recorded and reviewed by the PUCO.

Companies such as AES get the PUCO’s attention when there are large disparities. In 2017, 2019 and 2020, they missed the mark by several minutes. When that happens, it constitutes a violation of PUCO regulations. A case is opened and a hearing is held with the commission, which can include recommendations for improvement and corrective action, including fines. The case is still pending.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to look into an outage with AEP Ohio, which serves the Dayton area. In that case, the commission is reviewing a power outage that happened earlier this summer. It took nearly a week in some areas for the power to come back on.

Customers who would like to submit a complaint about their utility to the PUCO can do so online. You can also call the commission at 800-686-7826 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also fax a complaint to 614-752-8351 and by mail at Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Attn: CSD, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus, Ohio 43215-3793.

Keep in mind that information you provide the PUCO is considered public information. Review the PUCO privacy notice for more information.