Auburn Electric Poised for Future

 In Auburn Electric

By Chris Schweitzer – General Manager, Auburn Electric

When I joined Auburn Electric about two years ago, the leadership team cast a vision that focused on safety, people, customer service and system health. We’ve done a lot of work on all those fronts—all with the mission of delivering reliable quality power.

Over the past year, we’ve launched several initiatives to better position the utility for the years to come.

Highlights from the past year include:

  • Teams: We’ve reorganized to better fit the talents and interests of our people. It’s been neat to see our teams become even more integrated—with respect, trust and accountability. How we operate internally directly impacts the level of responsiveness, energy and problem-solving we bring to our system and the customers we serve.
  • Service Experience: Service requests are increasing, particularly as new subdivisions pop up around town. As we improved our communications internally and with other city departments, we’ve strengthened our customer service, too.
  • System Health: We’ve improved substation preventive maintenance and invested in equipment upgrades that will help us minimize outages and provide the best service possible. We’re working with AEP (American Electric Power) to upgrade transmission lines, poles and substations.
  • Pole Inspection: Our team inspected all electric poles in town. We corrected hundreds of integrity issues and repaired and replaced poles, as necessary.
  • IDIP: We implemented the Industrial Demand Incentive Program, a real-time communications system to provide free excess demand to qualified high voltage customers capable of the unique solution. In addition to providing cost benefits to eligible customers, it improves the utility’s system load factor and demand peaks for network-wide impact. We continue to study and test this unique application with our largest power customer as we aim to put it into production this year.
  • Equipment Upgrades: We updated our aged fleet (line and bucket trucks, heavy underground construction machinery, transport and foreman trucks).
  • Solar Generation: We’ve responded to several solar generation projects and identified operational areas of improvement for review, implementation, net metering and billing.

Looking Ahead
With this strong foundation, Auburn Electric is ready for the next steps in solidifying our system and service. In the coming months, we’ll be:

  • Building and reconfiguring circuits so there are more options if a circuit is ever compromised
  • Reinitiating an automated switching project that uses intelligent technology to automatically switch circuits if there is fault on an uncleared line
  • Enhancing our distribution system to fill in gaps, augment line construction, ensure better redundancy and make the overall system more reliable for customers
  • Beginning a multi-year street lighting modernization plan to replace old HID/HPS with LED fixtures, implement lighting controls, close lighting gaps and finalize pole and fixture standards.
  • Conducting a comprehensive study to look at system health and make effective plans for the next five years to maintain and improve power delivery to our rate-payers.
  • Upgrading Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA) performance, security and improved functionality for our line crews and utility operators.
  • Implementing Meter Data Management (MDM) system in order to store, retrieve, analyze and apply granular meter data for use in outage management, engineering, operations, planning, rate making and decision support activities.

We have a heightened sense of clarity, momentum and purpose. Teams are strengthened, processes refined and service elevated. We are genuinely excited about the opportunities to continue our mission of providing reliable quality power to ratepayers and our community.

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