Chelan PUD is trying to improve power reliability for the more than 50,000 customer owners it serves in the county. 

Currently there's a split between customers who live in the city versus rural areas. 

PUD Distribution Asset Manager Chad Rissman says there's less risk of trees and branches interfering with power lines in city areas. 

"There's definitely a trend where our urban customers...have a little better reliability, " said Rissman. "(They) don't have forested areas and trees." 

Rissman says there are definitely more power outages in rural areas. 

"Largely vegetation related issues and wild land fire mitigation are hitting the rural customers harder than they are the urban customers," Rissman. 

PUD staff is recommending a goal of reducing the average outage time per customer by 22-45 minutes. 

The PUD is planning to invest in three areas to improve reliability: cable replacement, tree-trimming, and using new technology to reduce the impact of wildfire mitigation settings.  

With those investments, PUD staff believes a goal can be reached to reduce outage time over the next five years to an average of 42 to 67 minutes a year. 

The current average is 89 minutes, but was 74 to 77 minutes in some previous years dating back to 2014. 

According to PUD research, 96-98% of Chelan PUD customers said they were “satisfied” to “very satisfied” during those years. 

One complication with reliability is the introduction of measures to reduce the risk of power lines contributing to wildfires, which took place in 2021. 

The move lowered the risk of electrical equipment starting a fire, but increased the number of outages. 

The PUD is responding by moving to use technology that'll allow it to quickly react to conditions out in the system. 

"We'd be able to go into our fire sensitive setting modes in and out as the conditions change, or as the conditions warrant out in our service territory, where as now we're doing that manually ," said Rissman. "And so, we end up staying in those states longer than what we would have. So we're expecting to recover some of those wild land fire mitigation impacts to reliability by doing some innovation improvements." 

PUD staff outlined a plan to invest in cable replacement, vegetation management and technology before PUD commissioners this week. 

The plan is to spend $2.5 million on Cable Replacements, which would shave off 5-10 minutes of power outage time per customer. An investment of $3 million on vegetation management would drop the outage time by 5-20 minutes. And what Rissman said would be the "biggest bang for the buck", an investment of just $300,000 on Technology Innovations would reduce the outage time by 12-25 minutes. 

The total reduction of between 22-45 minutes would achieve the goal of achieving an average outage time of 42 to 67 minutes a year. 

Chelan PUD commissioners responded favorably to the presentation by PUD staff.

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