Note: This is the first in a series of blog posts about improvements PPL Electric Utilities is making to our delivery system. The result? Fewer and shorter outages for our customers.
In the planning rooms at PPL Electric Utilities’ Schuylkill Office and along roads and rights of way, Ed Johnson, the company’s reliability supervisor, keeps a close eye on the condition of the power lines and equipment that deliver power to thousands of people in Carbon, Columbia, Luzerne, Schuylkill and Northumberland counties.
“Together with my staff of engineers, we’re proud to be the technical experts for the Central region’s power delivery system,” Johnson said. “For our customers in this region, my job is to ensure that all work in this area is identified and engineered with the highest regard for public and employee safety, to make sure our customers have the power they need when they need it for their daily lives.”
For Johnson, who’s been with PPL Electric Utilities for nearly 25 years, his work in the utility’s Central region is personal. He grew up in Ashland and lives now in Orwigsburg.
“It’s a nice connection for me, because I know the work we do to improve reliability is very likely making a difference in the lives of people I’ve known for a long time, ” he said. “Identifying projects that will improve the quality of life here is very important to me.”
In the Central region and across its 29-county service area, PPL Electric Utilities is rebuilding its system to make it stronger and more weather-resistant. A lot of the infrastructure being replaced was put in 60 to 70 years ago.
“It’s a source of pride to work for PPL Electric Utilities, because its entire system is being upgraded, not just in the high-density population areas,” Johnson said. “Every customer is important.”
Johnson, who received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Bucknell University and a master’s degree in engineering management from Drexel University, enjoys the challenge in analyzing how the electric delivery system is configured and finding ways to improve reliability for customers.
“Our work to improve reliability includes moving inaccessible lines closer to roadways and dividing lines into sections to reduce the number of outages customers experience on certain circuits,” he said.
“We’re helping improve service every day by strengthening and modernizing our electric delivery system,” Johnson added. “Installing smart grid equipment is one part of that effort. It improves reliability by sensing power outages and rerouting power around the damage – restoring many customers even before repairs are made.”
PPL Electric Utilities has stepped up removal of trees and tree limbs. Trees too close to lines are the biggest cause of power outages in storms, especially in this rural part of the service territory. “We have far fewer customers affected by storms now than we did just a few years ago, because of our line clearance work,” he said.
“Here in the Central region, power lines were installed using the shortest routes through wooded areas,” Johnson added. “Now we’re bringing those lines out of the woods to more accessible areas for our crews and contractors. That provides a huge improvement for reliability and the safety of our crews. We’ve been seeing shorter outage durations over the past several years, especially in storm situations.
“It’s very satisfying and challenging to identify new projects and get them engineered and built,” he said.
He also enjoys speaking with community organizations and Scout troops, and at colleges and high schools, about how PPL Electric Utilities’ system works and the work crews perform in the field.
Johnson says it’s all part of the mission to improve service.
“I can’t think of a job I’d enjoy more,” he said. “Everything we do benefits a customer somewhere, quite possibly a friend, neighbor or business owner I might know from living and working for most of my life here in Schuylkill County.”