Juneau power outages reach record low in 2017

It wasn’t a good weekend to be an electrical lineman in Juneau, but it has been a good year.

According to newly released company figures, the average customer of Alaska Electric Light and Power lost power for only 94 minutes in 2017. That’s better than the previous record, set in 2016 at 106 minutes, and well below the national average of 273 minutes.

(The national average is from 2016; figures from last year are not yet available.)

While chilly and wet weather this past weekend caused a two-hour outage on Thane Road and sent trucks rolling into the wet, those kinds of extended outages have become much less common, the company’s data show.

In 2008, when the city’s main electrical transmission line was severed by an avalanche, the average Juneauite was without power for almost six and a half hours per year. That figure was cut by more than an hour in 2009 and by almost another hour the following year.

Juneau’s power grid holds up well when compared to its Alaska contemporaries. In 2016, the latest year for which figures are available from the federal Energy Information Administration, the Matanuska Electric Association had 331 minutes of outages. Fairbanks’ Golden Valley Electric Association had 328 minutes of outages. Homer Electric Association had 214 minutes of outages.

Solely urban utilities, such as Anchorage’s Municipal Light and Power, fared better: ML&P had 42 minutes of outages.

All figures are averages: Some customers will have been without power for greater lengths of time; others will have had few (if any) outages.

“Certainly it’s an accumulation of a bunch of improvements over recent years,” said Debbie Driscoll, vice president for consumer affairs at AEL&P, explaining the reasons for Juneau’s reliability.

Driscoll said maintenance crews now have thermal cameras to detect problems before they knock out power. There also are easily visible LED indicators on equipment to show where a problem exists.

In places where birds are a problem, AEL&P has added things that discourage them from interfering with lines.

After the 2008 avalanche, the power line from the Snettisham hydroelectric plant was reinforced with avalanche diverters that have already saved the transmission line at least once.

Juneau has benefited from largely snowless winters, and while there have been severe storms, there haven’t been any major disasters.

Perhaps the biggest thing is something simple, what Driscoll calls “vegetation management.”

AEL&P has aggressively trimmed trees and vegetation along its lines, reducing the number of chances for things to go wrong.

“We found over the last five years or so that’s really made a difference. Especially in storms,” Driscoll said.

AVERAGE OUTAGE PER YEAR

1999: 5:20:00

2000: 5:21:00

2001: 5:10:31

2002: 4:58:23

2003: 2:54:31

2004: 4:27:57

2005: 3:39:11

2006: 3:51:02

2007: 2:59:22

2008: 6:27:59

2009: 5:14:29

2010: 4:36:22

2011: 4:15:43

2012: 1:57:30

2013: 4:08:55

2014: 2:52:56

2015: 2:18:58

2016: 1:46:00

2017: 1:34:00

5yr Avg: 2:32:10


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of May 22, 2022

Here’s what to expect this week.

Coast Guard aircrews medevaced two people from Dry Bay Airstrip, approximately 30 miles Southeast of Yakutat, Alaska, after their plane crashed, May 25, 2022. (Courtesy photo / Coast Guard District 17)
Three medevaced after plane crash near Yakutat

All four aboard were injured, three critically so.

The author’s appreciation for steelhead has turned into something like reverence considering what’s happening to populations in the Lower 48 and Canada. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: Silent steel

“You forget most of what ends up in the freezer, but those steelhead, they stick with you.”

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, seen here in this June 16, 2021, file photo, announced Wednesday he will not seek relelection in the Alaska State Senate, where he has served since 2013. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Senate president says he won’t run again

“Honor and a privilege.”

Hoonah’s Alaska Youth Stewards helped make improvements to Moby and water the plants in summer 2021. (Courtesy Photo / Jillian Schuyler)
Resilient Peoples & Place: Moby the Mobile Greenhouse cultivates community

It presents opportunities to grow food knowledge and skills.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, May 26, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Supreme Court orders use of interim map for elections

The decision came just over a week before the June 1 filing deadline for the August primaries.

Most Read