OKLAHOMA CITY – Damages from the ice storm October 26-28 that coated much of Oklahoma cost Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) at least $7 million and four days to repair.
“And that was on the distribution side,” said Stan Whiteford, region communications manager for the Tulsa-based utility that serves more than three dozen cities and towns in southwest Oklahoma.
Furthermore, “Not all of the storm repair bills have come in yet,” Whiteford said on December 1.
Transmission and distribution damages, the company reported, included replacement of approximately 250 utility poles, replacement of 713 cross arms, 308 downed spans of conductors requiring replacement of more than 89,000 feet (approximately 17 miles) of electric lines, 61 transmission line outages, change-out of 63 distribution transformers, and replacement of 214 damaged switches/cutouts.
A typical 45-foot class 3 pole can cost approximately $150 to $700 depending on the type of wood (utility poles are often made of cedar, Douglas fir or Southern pine) and where it’s purchased.
In California, a 35-foot- tall wooden utility pole was priced at $819, and a 30-footer was priced at $629, on December 1. That same day in Fairbanks, Alaska, a 35-foot, 700-pound wooden utility pole was priced at $826, while a 30-foot, 530-pound pole cost $612. In West Virginia, a 10-foot-wide wooden cross arm was priced at $42.21, while 8-foot wooden cross arms ranged in price from $35.16 to $71.30. Those prices did not include delivery and installation charges.
ICE STORM CAUSED THOUSANDS OF OUTAGES
The three-day ice storm brought a continuous wave of rain, sleet, snow, frigid wind, and freezing rain.
Public Service Co. ultimately had more than 1,000 individuals “in the field working storm recovery,” Whiteford said. That number included all PSO crews in western Oklahoma, PSO employees from the eastern half of the state (including Tulsa), workers from PSO’s sister company SWEPCO augmented with personnel from AEP Ohio and Kentucky Power, plus outside contractors and tree crews.
By the time the first wave of inclement weather arrived on October 26, “We already had outside resources on the ground,” Whiteford said. By the evening of October 28 “we had all 1,000+ workers spread out across the impacted areas.”
October 28 “was when we reached our peak for outages,” he said. “We had a little more than 36,000 then, which was the most we had out at any one time.” The company’s first power outages occurred that evening in the Bartlesville area and were “wrapped up in just a few hours.”
Ultimately PSO had more than 114,000 customer outages blamed on the ice storm, but had restored more than 106,000 of those by late October 29, the company reported on its website. Electric service in the Hobart area, and in the Lawton and Tipton areas, was restored by late October 30.
Grady County – including Chickasha, Norge, Amber, Pocasset, Tuttle, and Minco – was hit the hardest, Whiteford said. “A little over 4,000 customers in the Chickasha area,” as well as a few “exceptions who had extreme issues,” finally had their power restored by late October 31, records indicate.
ICE STORM EXPENSES MAY OR MAY NOT RESULT IN A RATE HIKE
Storm recovery costs are typically included for consideration in a public utility’s next rate case following a big storm. However, “That does not necessarily mean there will be a rate increase” because of the October 2020 ice storm, Whiteford said.
The storm repair costs alone will not determine whether PSO customer rates increase, he said. “That will depend on other issues, as well.” For example, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission may approve major storm costs for inclusion in customer rates, but other costs may have gone down or are disallowed, and those may or may not offset the storm costs,” Whiteford explained.
PSO is scheduled to file its next base rate case with the Corporation Commission by October 2021. The Corporation Commission regulates public utilities such as PSO, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co., CenterPoint and Oklahoma Natural Gas Co.
FUEL COST ADJUSTMENT GOING UP IN JANUARY
PSO customers will experience an increase in their utility bills starting in January, because of the fuel cost adjustment.
The adjustment is necessary to align the costs that PSO pays to purchase fuel for its power generating stations with the amounts that are charged customers for those purchases, Whiteford said. Because fuel costs vary from predicted costs, the factor must be adjusted up or down to ensure that customers pay only the fuel costs which PSO actually incurs – no more or less, he said.
For a typical residential customer who uses 1,100 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month, the fuel cost increase will amount to approximately $5 a month, Whiteford said.
PSO SERVES MUCH OF SW OKLAHOMA
Public Service Co., based in Tulsa, supplies electricity to more than 550,000 customers in Oklahoma: in and around Tulsa and McAlester plus residences and businesses in more than three dozen southwestern Oklahoma cities and towns.
PSO’s service territory in southwest Oklahoma includes Altus, Amber, Apache, Arapaho, Blair, Burns Flat, Cache, Carnegie, Cement, Chickasha, Cyril, Davidson, Duke, Duncan, Elgin, Elmer, Fletcher, Fort Cobb, Gotebo, Gould, Grandfield, Granite, Hobart, Hollis, Humphreys, Lawton, Lone Wolf, Manitou, Martha, Minco, Mountain Park, Mountain View, Norge, Pocasset, Roosevelt, Rush Springs, Snyder, Sterling, Temple, Terral, Tipton, Tuttle, and Waurika.