PENSACOLA, Fla. – Gulf Power’s nearly 470,000 customers experienced the best-ever service reliability in 2019, thanks to the company’s efforts to make the energy grid stronger and more storm-resilient, according to information filed today with the Florida Public Service Commission.

The average amount of time that a Gulf Power customer experienced an outage was approximately 25% less than in 2018, thanks in part to the investments Gulf Power has made to strengthen the energy grid. The company also achieved best-ever performance for the average number of momentaries or flickers experienced by customers, which are most commonly caused by animals or tree limbs touching power lines.

“Our ongoing investments in strengthening the grid are delivering real results and improving service for our customers,” said Marlene Santos, president of Gulf Power. “We’re continuing to step up our investments over the next several years in storm hardening projects and smart grid technology that will help us deliver even more reliable service to our customers, in good weather and bad.”

Between 2019-21, Gulf Power is investing nearly $100 million in storm hardening and reliability improvement efforts. The long-term storm hardening efforts include replacing wooden transmission structures with concrete or steel; hardening the distribution power lines to extreme wind loading criteria; and upgrading flood monitoring at several substations, which will go beyond 2021.

Reliability improvements underway include the installation of 5,500 automated lateral switches by 2021, with the first 2,000 completed last year. Automated lateral switches on power poles help detect and respond to a power outage on a line without having to send a lineworker out. The device can decrease the number of customers affected by outages and prevent temporary issues on the grid, such as a tree branch that falls across a line without breaking it, from becoming extended outages.

Other smart grid investments, such as self-healing network devices, are helping reduce outage times and, in some cases, avoid outages altogether for customers.

Other measures Gulf Power uses to increase reliability include:

  • Assessing the condition of power lines and other infrastructure using drones, which are more efficient, safer and can spot potential outage issues before they occur.
  • Clearing vegetation – a major cause of power outages – from more than 9,000 miles of power lines each year.
  • Inspecting all of the company’s distribution power poles within an eight-year cycle.

While weather plays a part in electric service reliability, the investments Gulf Power is making to improve reliability can help offset those impacts. For example, this January Northwest Florida had three times the number of lightning strikes compared to January 2019, yet Gulf Power’s reliability was twice as good this January compared to a year earlier.

Since joining the NextEra Energy family last year, Gulf Power teamed up with its sister company, Florida Power & Light Company, to use shared resources and implement best practices and lessons learned. FPL, which serves 5 million customers across Florida, was recently recognized with a national reliability excellence award for the fourth time in five years. The ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Award is given to the regional award recipient that has demonstrated sustained leadership, innovation and achievement in the area of electric reliability.