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This summer will be better: ComEd

April 7, 2000


Commonwealth Edison says it cannot be sure there will be no blackouts this summer--but they should be fewer and shorter than last year.

"We cannot guarantee a summer without outages but we do guarantee we will provide more reliable service than last summer," said Carl Croskey, president of ComEd's transmission and distribution services.

ComEd executives spoke before the Illinois Commerce Commission to outline improvements to substations, cables and other facilities that deliver power to the public.

The commission has watched ComEd closely since last summer's massive power failures on the North Side and in the Loop. The blackouts were caused by the company's failure to properly maintain and upgrade its power lines and substations.

At one point, with temperatures in the high 90s, more than 100,000 customers were without electricity.

"We had a transmission and distribution system that was broken," Croskey said. "The system has been abused for many years."

Croskey said reliability is improving as the company focuses on maintenance.

A year ago, the average customer was left without power on 1.82 occasions a year, ComEd said. That number has fallen to 1.42 occasions and the company hopes to reduce it further to the national average of 1.2.

Power failures are shorter in duration now, ComEd said. A year ago, the average outage lasted about three hours and 30 minutes. Now it lasts a little less than two hours and 10 minutes.

Commission Chairman Richard Mathias was mildly enthusiastic about ComEd's efforts to assure reliable electrical service to its customers.

"While I am encouraged by the initiatives which you and ComEd have undertaken to date, much remains to be done," Mathias told Croskey.

ComEd's fleet of nuclear plants--once the worst in the nation--is clearly in better shape than in the past.

Last summer, the 10 reactors produced power at 97 percent capacity, about as good as can be done, and the company has spent $180 million to improve reliability and increase power output.

"We have assessed the state of almost every component in these plants," said Oliver Kingsley, president of the company's nuclear generation group. "We have made huge improvements in preventative maintenance."

Kingsley was hired in 1997 to fix ComEd's chronically troubled nuclear plants.

"We found electrical components that should be changed every six years that had been there 16," he said.

On Wednesday, the Braidwood Station's Unit 1 reactor began generating power after an 18-day shutdown for refueling. It missed setting a national record for the quickest refueling by less than a day.

Brief refueling periods are a sign of health for utilities. They indicate that the plant's staff is skilled and relatively few repairs were needed.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 08, 2000

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