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Archive for Thursday, July 28, 2011

Westar acknowledges unacceptability of recent outages

Westar Energy representatives held an open house Thursday to discuss recent outage issues with area residents and customers. The company is currently working to install new cables and fix or replace some older equipment.

July 28, 2011

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Representatives from Westar Energy shed a little light on the company’s recent service issues and discussed plans to improve during an open house Thursday evening.

Westar, which provides power to nearly 45,000 customers in Douglas County, has had reliability issues in recent months. Power outages, the majority caused by equipment failures, have affected many area residents, who have let the company know of their displeasure.

“It’s frustrating,” area resident Robert Lewis said. “This is an embarrassment.”

Westar employees worked to explain the processes in action to help resolve the service issues. Among them are plans, nearly 70 percent complete, to replace cable from the Sixth Street substation. The cables are made with superior materials and are thicker, making them less likely to fail or break, according to Jeff McKee, director of operations for Westar’s Lawrence division. He said Westar services needed to improve.

“Basically we’ve had some issues with reliability,” he said. “These issues do not meet Westar Energy standards.”

Plans are in place to help alleviate the problems, many of which are coming out of the Sixth Street substation, which serves about 7,500 customers in Lawrence. While equipment failure accounts for the majority of outages, it is not the only cause. Lightning, wildlife, public damage and trees are also among the culprits responsible for power outages each year.

Mike Horniman, the vegetation management supervisor, said trees are like roads, with constant maintenance necessary to keep things functioning.

Trees often cause shorts in circuits when they come into contact with power lines. Horniman said it’s not always easy to get them trimmed.

“We still realize there are sentimental values to certain trees,” Horniman said about trimming people’s property. “We hate to leave ugly trees, though.”

Westar hopes to have what remains of the project near completion by the end of the year, weather allowing. In the meantime, McKee said, they’ll keep on doing what needs to be done.

“We just try to react and get people out to get the power back on,” he said. “As soon as we can.”

Comments

Chris Scafe 2 years, 8 months ago

This reminds me of when I lived in Lagos, Nigeria. We had a big generator in the garage for all the outages. I've been shopping around for a smaller one lately.

What we really need is distributed energy with solar panels on every rooftop and banks of batteries to store the power. That way, when Westar standard equipment fails, it won't take out power to whole swaths of the city. A nice side-effect would be eliminating much of that filth we breathe every time we turn something on.

Of course, setting up solar systems is initially expensive, but over the lifetime of a building there can be big benefits.

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Jimo 2 years, 8 months ago

Absent an explicit legal obligation (and penalty) to provide service, Westar isn't going to worry about this issue outside of the "communications office." After all, what are dissatisfied customers going to do? Move their business to the other utility?

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oneeye_wilbur 2 years, 8 months ago

We is sorry, but we can fix the problem. Give us your money and we can fix anything. Thank you and as you know we are responsible to our shareholders, we really don't care about the customers. We have an agreement with your city as well to let them fleece you with a franchise tax.

Notice that all utilies now have taken the term service from their company names. Customer service has been denigrated to an 800 number asking to I want to speak in Spanish or English. What a dumb question. English, I am in America. On second thought, why aren't we asked about Chinese, Urdu, Farsi, or Portuguese? Why are the only choices Spanish and English?

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KansasBard 2 years, 8 months ago

Westar should pay a penalty (to the customers) every time there's an outage. You were without power for 2 hours? That's $20 off your bill. I'll bet with a penalty system in place, Westar would improve their reliability quickly.

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Tony Kisner 2 years, 8 months ago

Should change their tag line to - We'll try to keep your lights on while increasing our year over year return to shareholders. Or maybe just change their name again.

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Crazy_Larry 2 years, 8 months ago

They're gonna need a rate increase, pronto. Are you paying attention, KCC?

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droppinplates 2 years, 8 months ago

Grandma got it right. The public doesn't like to be without power, so they need to upgrade equipment to make the system more reliable, thus making their customers happy. But, it's gonna cost ya!!

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Sigmund 2 years, 8 months ago

After Westar sent Wright Tree Service for a bit of vegetation management for couple of weeks, we haven't had a single outage. Our complaints were with Customer Service out of Wichita who would give the standard excuse and would never forward a single complaint. Once those complaints got to the local people the issues got resolved promptly and professionally.

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Number_1_Grandma 2 years, 8 months ago

Westar is talking hypothetical again like "trees, weather, animals" can cause outages...duh. But which is it? None has explained why we have outages when there's no "tree, weather or animal issues! Just more BS from Westar. You just can't trust them and I don't. All about money here; trying to justify rate increases and look good for their shareholders. Money, money, money....this is all this is about.....and GREED!

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sad_lawrencian 2 years, 8 months ago

Strange. When I lived on the south part of town (26th & Iowa on Redbud Lane) there were power outages all the time. Now that I'm living in the northwest part of town (6th and Kasold) there has not been one outage the entire time I've lived here.

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