Why can't AEP fix it?

Why can't AEP fix it?

That was the question asked by Bob Chosy at the end of an hourlong presentation by American Electric Power (AEP) to Worthington City Council on Sept. 10.

He and other council members expressed their frustration over not only the power outages that occurred in central Ohio in late June but also over what has been an ongoing problem with outages and power surges in Worthington.

"At the end of the day, our electricity goes out a lot," council member Chosy said. "All the stuff you are saying doesn't mean anything."

Tom Kirkpatrick of AEP reviewed for council the severity of the June 25 storm, the electric company's efforts to restore power to 670,000 customers and the many programs the company has developed to help prevent such emergencies.

The June 29 derecho was the worst storm in AEP history, he said. The straight-line winds averaged 60 miles per hour and were measured at 82 mph at Worthington's Don Scott Field.

It took 13 days to fully restore power in severe heat, Kirkpatrick said. Crews from other states were called in to help in the effort.

Some residents were frustrated because they couldn't understand AEP's priorities for restoring power. For example, the company works to restore areas with large blocks of power outages before it works on areas with fewer outages, Kirkpatrick said.

Restoring individual outages is last on the list.

"That causes a tremendous amount of angst from customers," he said.

AEP follows a program of regular inspections of equipment and a four-year rotation of trimming trees, but it faces challenges with aging equipment and lots of trees in communities like Worthington, he said.

Burying utility wires is not the answer because it would be too costly, and it's a cost that would be passed on to customers, he said. He estimated the cost at $1 million a mile.

"There is just no appetite for that kind of conversion," he told council.

AEP has instituted new programs to prevent outages since 2004, he said.

"If the programs are working well, why am I having the same problems I had nine years ago?" council member Bonnie Michael asked.

Burying lines might be more cost effective than the massive restorations of outages that seem to occur on a regular basis, she said.

"It happens with predictable regularity," council member Scott Myers said.

He said little has changed since the discovery of electricity and the installation of the first poles and wires.

"We're using 100-year-old technology," Myers said. "That's the problem.