Always keeping service and safety as our utmost imperatives, Lake Region Electric Cooperative values solid fact-based planning. It’s what keeps us on track.
As destructive and challenging as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, our experience of recent months has actually exposed some ways we can improve service. Reliance on virtual communications has skyrocketed. Many Lake Region members are now working from home and/or have students, elementary through college age, participating in virtual education. These activities depend on internet connectivity and electric reliability. As a result, there has been somewhat of a reshaping of consumer electrical load, as well as increased member expectations. We realize how disruptive power outages can be, especially when so much critical activity is now home centered. In short, the bar for electric reliability is consistently being raised.
When power outages do occur, we’ve always strived to respond quickly and work in a manner that is safe to our employees, members, and the public. Most outages are caused by things beyond our control. Wind and ice storms, lightning, squirrels and birds, human accidents, and so forth top the list.
Yet, where we can take preventative measures, we are doing so—upping our game through technology, employee empowerment, and planning.
Your board of directors recently approved a new construction work plan for the years 2021 through 2024. The plan authorizes a total expenditure of $24 million for our electric distribution facilities. The plan also incorporates ways to modernize our aging infrastructure and create a smarter distribution grid.
More than half of the budget will be used for transformers and meters, pole replacements, and new services. The remainder will be used for new substations, service capacity increases, new conductor (wire) replacement, and smart metering technologies. The work plan calls for areas of conversion from overhead power line to underground line, and also single-phase power line to heavier three-phase line to better serve increased electric load.
There will be circumstances when a planned power outage will be necessary in order to safely conduct system repairs and upgrades. We will try to limit these occurrences in both frequency and duration, but they will sometimes be necessary for the safety of our employees.
Our line crews are our best eyes and ears in the field. We are empowering these frontline employees with iPad technology so that they become a direct link into our data collection. This is especially important since our extensive service territory covers 3,200 square miles. We operate 5,800 miles of power line, 4,100 miles of which is overhead line and 1,700 miles underground line. There are 30 substations serving our 35,000 metering points. The value of our current utility plant totals $142 million.
We are now using sophisticated data analytics technology to conduct an in-depth examination of our entire electrical system. The analytics plot out troublesome areas and pinpoint pockets that may be at greater risk for service interruption or other reliability problems. It is from this fact-based data that we continue to hone our plans and prioritize our projects.
Yes, these are big jobs, but they are also something we are happy to tackle. You see, for the board of directors and employees of Lake Region Electric Cooperative, everything revolves around service reliability, safety, and member satisfaction.