Power to you: Utility workers deserve praise

Recently, the people who work hard in the field to repair and improve our electric grid got some well-deserved honors.

On June 22, the Pennsylvania Legislature declared the day Lineworker Appreciation Day, praising the work that utility field workers do in all weather conditions to make sure service stays reliable.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Edison Electric Institute trade group joined forces July 10 to declare that day National Lineworker Appreciation Day.

We agree that our skilled, hard-working people in the field deserve recognition for the jobs they do, and we appreciate these official tributes – as well as the words of praise that came in from customers.

While our people in the field are working to keep reliability strong, some cool new technology is giving them a hand.

An automated switching system, now in place across PPL Electric Utilities’ electric grid, is cutting the lengths of outages to minutes for many customers. Here’s how it works:

“Sensors atop poles detect outages and send the info to a central computer, which analyzes the problem.

“The computer uses remote-controlled switches to reroute power to other circuits, quickly and automatically restoring some customers to service.

“Field crews come in, repair the damage, and restore service to those customers that the computer can’t help. (They’re often the customers closest to the site of the network problem.)

A significant number of customers can have their power back in five minutes or so, before crews reach the scene of the work.

It’s part of a larger commitment by PPL Electric Utilities to improve reliability.

We’ll be installing more sensors and smart grid equipment on our system in coming years, to make it even more flexible. We’re also making lines and equipment more stormproof, installing guards to keep squirrels and other animals from causing outages, and expanding tree trimming, because trees are the major cause of outages during storms.

Keeping your power on – safely, reliably and affordably – will most likely always require skilled, committed field workers. When you add the benefits of smart technology to the mix, you get the best of both worlds.

Teri MacBride is a regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities. Email her at TJMacBride@pplweb.com.