ENSURING RELIABILITY AND RESILIENCE
We recognize that our electric service is wide-reaching, impacting more than 6 million utility customers who depend on us to provide safe and reliable energy every day of the year. Safety and performance excellence are Core Values for our company, and we are implementing important initiatives to meet customers' electricity usage needs today while preparing for increased demand in a clean energy future.
To drive improvement, our Energizing the Future transmission program and Distribution Grid of the Future program target investments that enhance the reliability and resilience of our system for customers. Routine infrastructure maintenance and storm preparedness plans also play key roles in our efforts to help ensure service reliability.
MEASURING RELIABILITY PERFORMANCE
Our customers count on us to keep their energy flowing and address outages swiftly when they occur. Reliability metrics such as distribution System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) and Transmission Outage Frequency (TOF) are included in our key performance indicators (KPIs) and are crucial to our pursuit of performance excellence.
SAIDI represents the average total duration of outage minutes in a year for each customer served, adjusted for major storms. Our KPI goals for SAIDI are in line with annual standards established by the state utility commissions and are set to challenge our operating companies to enhance performance. TOF measures the frequency of transmission line outages, excluding those that are scheduled, forced by emergency or operational. The KPI goals for TOF are determined through industry peer benchmarking.
We measure our performance on these metrics and share results with employees both quarterly and annually. Please see our EESG data table for our trended reliability performance metrics.
ENERGIZING THE FUTURE TRANSMISSION INVESTMENTS
Through our Energizing the Future initiative, we're upgrading and modernizing our transmission system to ensure customers benefit from a stronger, smarter and more secure power grid for years to come.
Investing in innovation and ENHANCING THE GRID with new technologies
- Center for Advanced Energy Technology (CAET): Innovative testing and training facility.
- Transmission Asset Health Center: Real-time monitoring to reduce outages and lower expenses.
- Integrating digital technology to enhance equipment monitoring and lower costs.
- Exploring real-time emerging technologies to enhance data collection.
Continuing strategic investments and preparing for a FUTURE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
- Making smart investments to modernize the grid to integrate future renewables.
- Ensuring reliability through sequence of capital projects with maintenance requirements.
- Leading in industry dialogue surrounding the integration of renewables into the grid.
- Exploring opportunities with stakeholders to achieve their renewable goals.
Continued focus on making the right INVESTMENTS FOR OUR CUSTOMERS
- Improving reliability and resiliency with fewer and shorter outages.
- Lowering total energy costs by reducing initial capital and future maintenance expenses.
- Supporting the global energy transition to renewable resources.
- Assisting in advancements of economic development.
These infrastructure investments are driving significant performance enhancements on our ATSI system, serving our three utility companies in Ohio and our Penn Power utility in western Pennsylvania. We anticipate continued customer benefits as we expand the program eastward.
With over 700 projects undertaken in 2021 alone, our long-term, multibillion-dollar Energizing the Future initiative continues to modernize FirstEnergy's transmission assets, enhance operational capabilities and expand load capacity to make the grid more reliable and resilient. These significant transmission investments also support our Climate Strategy by hardening the grid against increasingly violent storms, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and providing the grid flexibility needed to incorporate more renewable energy resources. Across our service area, we're replacing or rebuilding existing lines and substations, and adding new facilities to meet anticipated load growth and other operational challenges.
We're reconfiguring substations across our service area to increase capacity, reduce the probability of equipment failure and respond quickly to supply disruptions. In south central Pennsylvania, we upgraded a substation to increase the capacity of the transformer that connects the West Penn Power and Penelec systems, providing a more reliable substation configuration. Another upgrade in Erie, Pennsylvania, helps prevent potential outages on the 115-kilovolt (kV) system through a substation configuration that leaves room for future expansion. Such infrastructure investments are driving measurable performance enhancements for our customers, including a 38% reduction through 2021 in transmission-related distribution outages on our ATSI system, which serves our three utility companies in Ohio and our Penn Power utility in western Pennsylvania.
As we make these reliability investments, we're targeting a 20% reduction in TOF on 100 kV-and-above lines by 2025, compared to our 2019 baseline. Notably, these upgrades are essential, not only to continued reliability, but to enabling a reduced carbon future marked by increased renewables and distributed energy resources. Visit our Energy Transition page, our Climate Strategy and our Investor Factbook for additional details on our clean-energy focused transmission investments.
CUSTOMER-FOCUSED DISTRIBUTION INVESTMENTS
Through our Distribution Grid of the Future program, we're building a more dynamic, smart and secure distribution system.
Across our service territory, we are working to strengthen our grid's foundation by building a smarter communications network and replacing or upgrading aging equipment. That includes implementing Advanced Distribution Management Systems, more advanced automation, smart meters and other technologies to prepare the distribution grid of the future.
OHIO GRID MODERNIZATION
As part of our customer and future-focused Grid Modernization programs, our Ohio customers will benefit from enhanced reliability, energy efficiency opportunities and innovative products and services that can ultimately help lower their energy bills.
Our filing, known as Ohio Grid Mod II, proposes a four-year, $626 million investment plan that builds upon system upgrades completed under Grid Mod I. Under Grid Mod I we have installed approximately 704,000 smart meters across our Ohio service area, enabling automated readings and helping customers make more informed decisions about their energy usage. We also implemented automated reclosers and voltage-regulating devices to reduce the scope of outages and optimize voltage levels on the system. These improvements are producing reliability benefits for customers.
The Grid Mod II would also offer smart thermostat rebates of $50 per thermostat and customer energy management reports for residential customers that will further enable them to manage their energy usage.
VEGETATION MANAGEMENT ENHANCES RELIABILITY
We conduct preventative maintenance on our infrastructure as part of our transmission and distribution programs in each of the states we operate. Vegetation management is one of the key proactive steps we take because we operate in heavily dense vegetative areas, where trees are a leading cause of outages. For that reason, it's a clear priority for us to manage vegetation along our distribution lines and transmission corridors, especially along rights-of-way.
Our integrated vegetation management (IVM) process involves conducting inspections to determine which vegetation will interfere with our lines and equipment and employing contractors to reduce incompatible vegetation, either through manual mowing, pruning, tree and brush removal or herbicide application, as needed. For details on how our IVM process helps cultivate biodiverse, pollinator habitats in our transmission rights-of-way, please visit our Biodiversity and Conservation page.
Our Vegetation Management group manages more than 2.5 million trees every year. We follow four-year and five-year maintenance cycles for transmission and distribution lines, depending on the state or utility service area. Our vegetation management staff performs inspections and approves all work conducted by vegetation management contractors. Annual inspections of transmission rights-of-way corridors are performed to assess treatment effectiveness and identify necessary work to help ensure reliability.
We have contracts with more than 40 companies that perform vegetation management activities on our transmission and distribution systems, totaling an estimated 1,500 crews and 3,500 trained, qualified line clearance workers. Our work complies with all federal, state and local regulations and in accordance with the American National Standards Institute's ANSI-Z133.1 and ANSI-A300 Standards – vegetation management and safety standards set by the Tree Care Industry Association. Forestry personnel also seek relevant certifications, such as ISA Certified Arborist, ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist, Registered Professional Forester, Tree Risk Assessment Qualification, Certified Tree Expert and Pesticide Licenses.
On the transmission side, our Transmission Vegetation Management group uses Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to more accurately and efficiently identify incompatible vegetation for removal. Consisting of a laser and GPS receiver, LiDAR technology bounces light beams off objects around it and captures all the reflected points in a selected range. The LiDAR data can then be used to create an accurate three-dimensional image that shows the height of vegetation on the transmission corridor, which is used to assist in work planning activities, cyclical maintenance, and to verify appropriate clearances are maintained. As the technology improves, the Transmission Vegetation Management group plans to use LiDAR data for artificial intelligence efforts and other initiatives aimed at enhancing employee safety and service reliability.
For instance, we've been using the LiDAR data to target ground inspections by focusing efforts where vegetation is identified to help verify nothing is encroaching on our line clearances. Additionally, we are using LiDAR to assist in work planning quality control; identify vegetation that is encroaching our C1 Radial clearances; and comply with the NERC requirement to aerially inspect all NERC lines annually.
UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEM TEAM
Our Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program's team of pilots uses drones to perform aerial inspections and surveys of our infrastructure. These inspections help us identify and assess environmental-related risks – including those posed by nesting birds – as well as maintenance needed for reliability or to repair storm damage.
Using drones is often safer, faster, more thorough and less expensive than other options. For example, drones help mitigate our impact on vegetation and wildlife while decreasing employee exposure to potential hazards.
Our drone pilots must complete a rigorous training program that includes ground school and airspace navigation. All pilots are licensed through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). FirstEnergy's Flight Operations team oversees the UAS program's operational procedures and adherence.
Please visit the Biodiversity and Conservation page for details on the important role drones play in our avian protection process.
Our customers rely on us to deliver the safe and reliable electric service needed for their daily lives. While we continue to work to increase the resilience of our system, weather – especially large storms – can have a significant impact on our ability to serve our customers.
Our emergency response processes enable us to respond quickly and safely to a storm or other emergency. Our processes incorporate key principles and concepts found in the National Incident Management System (NIMS) to help ensure a standardized, consistent and scalable approach to all incidents regardless of size, scope or complexity.
To maintain a state of operational preparedness, we conduct exercises annually to test our training, as well as key systems and tools. These exercises are designed to prepare employees assigned to service restoration duties and review the restoration processes and storm-management tools critical to getting the lights back on quickly and safely. Additionally, we conduct After Action Reviews with affected stakeholders following all major storm events and emergencies to assess our performance and continuously improve our readiness. Corrective Actions are improvement items that result from After Action Reviews. These actions are assigned to specific individuals or groups to help ensure accountability and track completion.