The U.S. electric grid is a complex, interconnected network of components that work together to provide a reliable power supply. When one part isn’t functioning at its best, a loss of power may occur. When that happens, regardless of the reason, customers expect their service to be restored quickly. If it isn’t, there can be political, regulatory, economic and social consequences for our customers and our communities that impact AEP.
We must prevent outages to a practical extent and restore power safely and efficiently when they do occur. We face challenges affecting our ability to maintain the existing 220,000-mile transmission and distribution network while also upgrading infrastructure to meet future demands and changes in the generation portfolio across the country. Our challenges include the age of our infrastructure, the threat of external interruptions, the need for greater capacity, the difficulty of siting new facilities, new and future environmental regulations, and the cost of needed investments.
The ability to weather major storms and other large-scale interruptions is an area of increasing focus for us and the industry in general. The United States had seven weather/climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each in 2013, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
We are developing and refining technologies to improve reliability and pursuing changes to our processes and procedures. Our industry learned there are many impediments to effective restoration following a large event like Superstorm Sandy in late October 2012, which affected the Northeast more directly than those areas that AEP serves.