By NICHOLAS SAKELARIS | CoServ
Reliability is so important to CoServ that it’s not just a word.
“It’s a mindset because we have CoServ Employees who really buy into it and want to get the power back on as quickly as possible,” said Greg Ward, Senior Vice President of Field Operations. “There’s urgency to it. We try to get it fixed as quickly and safely as possible.”
The index that CoServ uses to measure system reliability reflects this mindset in a big way.
Electric cooperatives and utilities use SAIDI – the System Average Interruption Duration Index – as a reliability indicator. It is calculated by multiplying the total duration of power outages by the number of Members affected, then dividing that number by the total Members served. SAIDI numbers are like a golf score: The lower the better.
CoServ’s SAIDI score in 2019 was 32.5, which means the average Member was without power for a little over a half-hour. For 2020, this number was 26.2 – an improvement of more than six minutes.
“It’s a company-wide philosophy to be proactive and go the extra mile for our Members and Customers,” Greg said.
And while CoServ has used new technology in recent years to help improve reliability, Greg said what makes the biggest difference is the right people – CoServ Employees and contractors – working to design, maintain and improve our system every day.
“It’s definitely a team effort,” he said.
A reliable system begins with CoServ’s engineers, who design the electrical infrastructure with redundancies and the capacity to handle short-term load increases that occur during restoration efforts. CoServ’s construction teams then build or oversee contractors who install transformers, switchgears, power lines and other infrastructure. Operations Team members keep the power on and restore it when there’s an outage. Outages can occur at any time, which is why CoServ Linemen are on-call 24/7.
“If we have a big storm blow through, it’s all hands on deck,” said Perry Ancell, Systems Operations Manager. “We can usually get two or three crews on a large outage pretty quick, and response times have been great.”
CoServ’s Dispatch Team plays a critical role in safely rerouting power to minimize the duration of power outages – a process known as backfeeding.
Perry explained that many utilities don’t have the extensive backfeeding capability that CoServ does. That’s critically important if, for example, a vehicle crashes into a utility pole – the second-leading cause of electrical lockouts for CoServ in 2020 – and takes down a circuit, potentially knocking out power for thousands of Members.
With backfeeding, power can be restored to most affected Members within minutes once personnel are on-site. Electrons flow through power lines like water through a river – backfeeding just changes the direction while our crews safely repair the damaged infrastructure.
“We can usually find alternate feeds,” Perry said. “We can backfeed and put it on another circuit and get a large majority of Members back on most of the time.”