May 16, 2023

Update To Our Customers

Follow-up to May 13, 2023 Outage
As a consumer-owned not-for-profit utility, Benton PUD exists solely to operate in the best interest of our customers. We know affordable and reliable electricity is a critical service essential to our customers’ health, safety, and well-being. While we cannot guarantee 100% reliable service, we hold ourselves to high standards and have processes and personnel in place to be sure we are ready to quickly respond when power outages occur.

As a distribution utility we do not generate the electricity provided to our customers. Instead, we rely on the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to transmit electricity from the regional power grid into our community. BPA operates about 75% of the high-voltage power lines in the Northwest and is Benton PUD’s exclusive provider of transmission services.

On Saturday, May 13, just after 2 PM, a connector failed in BPA’s 115,000-volt transmission line serving Benton PUD’s Kennewick substation located near the intersection of W. 10th Avenue and S. Washington resulting in a widespread power outage impacting 7,847 customers served from nine separate Benton PUD main distribution feeder lines. Benton PUD personnel responded by helping identify the location of the problem on BPA’s transmission line and by opening circuit breakers at the Kennewick substation to provide a safe environment for BPA personnel to perform work on their line. Benton PUD personnel also performed switching operations on our distribution lines necessary to restore power to about half the affected customers within two hours. Unfortunately, we reached the limit of how many customers could be served safely from a neighboring substation over alternate circuits meaning the rest of the affected customers would have to wait until BPA completed their repairs.

BPA transmission lines operate at very high voltages which require special safety clearances to be issued to personnel prior to any work being performed. Benton PUD personnel are not authorized to perform work on lines or equipment owned and operated by BPA. BPA’s regional operations center is in the Spokane area with around-the-clock dispatch personnel responsible for coordinating the outage and emergency work of the local BPA personnel in the Tri-Cities area.

High voltage power line repairs require multiple personnel to perform work safely and efficiently. Like Benton PUD, local BPA line personnel are on call during periods outside normal work hours and must be individually contacted to respond to outages and make repairs. Once BPA was able to assemble the required number of personnel and travel to the location of the failed transmission line connector, they were issued a safety clearance from their regional operations center and completed the required repair. After BPA clearances were released, Benton PUD personnel restored normal transmission line service to our Kennewick substation and completed the switching orders on our distribution circuits necessary to restore service to the remaining customers who were without power. Final power restoration occurred just before 8 PM.

When power outages such as the one from last Saturday occur, our personnel engage immediately with data and information provided by our automated metering and remote control and monitoring systems. As part of our normal process, we consolidate information received from our automatic systems with phone calls received by our 24-hour call center allowing us to quickly assess the location and scope of power outages which we immediately display on our SmartHub outage map application. In addition to the SmartHub app, we use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with our customers with the best information we have at the time.

We apologize for the inconvenience to our customers who were impacted by Saturday’s outage. Benton PUD’s typical restoration time for outages on our distribution system is approximately two hours. We know last Saturday’s outage well exceeded that and we appreciate our customers’ patience as we worked with BPA to restore power. Like our customers, we too were frustrated by the length of time it took BPA to respond and make necessary repairs to allow power to be restored. We have reached out to BPA to identify how we can work together to improve response times and provide better and more frequent updates to our customers in the event we experience a failure with their equipment and transmission system in the future. We take our mission to improve the quality of life in our community using reliable and efficient delivery systems to heart, and we are proud to be Your Trusted Energy Partner.