PSE, Kenmore working on reducing power outages, negotiating new franchise agreement

Relief may be on the way for Kenmore residents who have dealt with frequent power outages.

PSE officials and Kenmore City Council members meet near circuit 26 last winter. Reporter File Photo

Relief may be on the way for Kenmore residents who have dealt with frequent power outages.

In a July presentation to the Kenmore City Council, assistant City Manager Nancy Ousley presented the updated proposals from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) to address reliability concerns in Kenmore.

The city is also negotiating a franchise agreement with PSE, which are usually in effect for 10 years. The last one expired in 2015.

Last winter, following severe storms and massive power outages, PSE proposed a list of improvements to be implemented over subsequent years. This list was expanded in the July meeting to include seven major projects to be completed by 2018, many of which are scheduled to be finished this year.

Improvements scheduled for 2016 include automated systems along Juanita Drive near the Kirkland boundary which detects damaged infrastructure and reroutes power to customers within seconds; manual circuit switches along Northeasts 185th Street which linemen switch and which lets the system restore power more quickly; new reclosers on Northeast 195th Street and Northeast 169th Street that will isolate outages and keep larger portions of the grip operating; and a massive upgrade of a transmission line which runs between Bothell and Kenmore through the northern reaches of the city known as the Moorlands-Vitulli line.

Sections of line near 83rd Avenue Northeast will be buried in 2017 and lines along the troubled circuit 26 in northeast Kenmore will have tree wires installed by 2018.

This list of projects marks a large expansion from previous proposals, which Kenmore City Manager Rob Karlinsey said he thinks didn’t happen by chance.

“I think PSE has gotten the message loud and clear from our citizens that they’re not satisfied with power reliability,” he said.

During franchise negotiations, which could stretch on another year, Karlinsey said the city has hired a private firm to assess power reliability. The results of their analysis will play into negotiations.

PSE representatives have said they strive for an average of 1.3 outages annually across their service area, though spokesperson RaeLynn Asah told the Reporter in a recent interview that each area has different goals.

She said the company needs to install the upgrades and make adjustments based on performance to see if their proposed changes will be enough to meet power demands and achieve an acceptable reduction of outages. If they don’t, the company will look at additional options.

Specifically, she cited the improvements being made along the Moorlands-Vitulli line, which hasn’t been upgraded in 60 years, as a major step forward.

“A new transmission line with all new equipment… will significantly reduce the time of outages,” she said. “It won’t eliminate them.”

Major storm events will always cause outages, she said, but with upgrades, the duration and frequency of those outages should decrease. These improvements should be done by the beginning of Puget Sound’s storm system in November, Asah said.

Overhead switches, like the one being installed along Northeast 185th Street, can reduce and limit outages she said.

In areas with these switches, an outage that would normally affect 1,000 customers can be reduced to around 200 or less and power can be restored much more quickly by rerouting power around the damaged section of line.

All the proposed improvements were already in their master plan, she said, so customers shouldn’t see rate increases to cover the costs associated with upgrades.

Asah also said PSE has been focusing on the Northshore area to address concerns.

“We’re working diligently to improve power and reliability,” she said. “It’s certainly something that we’re taking very seriously.”

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