Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Duke agrees to consumer-friendly reliability reports

Ever wonder, Duke Energy customers, how your service compares to that of other utilities?

You're about to find out. Duke has agreed to file, for the first time, quarterly reports that compare its North Carolina power outage data to industry benchmarks.

Thirty-six other states require utilities to publicly report how often, and for how long, outages occur.

But as the Observer reported last year, it's near impossible for North Carolina customers to get that information. Duke closely monitors the data but doesn't publicly report it. To complicate matters, utilities differ in how they measure and report results to the two widely-used industry reliability indices.

The N.C. Utilities Commission's Public Staff, which advocates for consumers, recommended a change. When the commission approved Duke's merger with Progress Energy in June, it required the companies to find a way standardize the indices and report their service quality.

This week, the two Duke subsidiaries that serve the Carolinas proposed a rule they developed with the Public Staff. The rule bases quarterly performance reports on industry indices for outage duration and frequency, and sets standards to ensure the data is used consistently.

Neither the utility that serves northeastern North Carolina, Dominion North Carolina Power, nor the N.C. Electric Membership Corp., which represents cooperatives, signed on to the proposal.

It's up to the Utilities Commission to approve the rule.

At the time of the Observer's article in August 2011, the industry indexes showed Duke's outage performance in North Carolina had steadily improved since 2003. Progress Energy, now a Duke subsidiary, showed improved performance after 2006 followed by an uptick in outages in 2010.

How have they done since then? I don't know -- and, for now, neither do you.