Southern California Edison (SCE), which provides the city’s electricity, said at a Monday council meeting that Alhambra faces more power outages than other cities serviced by the company.
In 2015 Alhambra customers faced an average of 199.6 minutes of power outage. In comparison, customers in SCE’s network faced an average of 115.2 minutes without power. In that same year Alhambra customers averaged 1.6 outages that lasted more than 5 minutes, while customers in the SCE network averaged 0.9 outages that lasted more than 5 minutes. Alhambrans faced numbers that exceeded the averages in 2012 and 2014 as well.
Documents provided by SCE showed that, in 2015, most of the instances of power outage were caused by weather, fire, or earthquakes. These accounted for 27.9 percent of the instances. The second leading cause was equipment failure, which caused 21.2 percent of the instances. Vegetation and animals were the cause 11.8 percent of the time.
SCE representatives said at Monday's meeting that the problem is partly due to an aging infrastructure in Alhambra. They also cited a lengthy bureaucratic process that is required to get funds for improvement projects.
“We understand that reliability hasn’t met standards,” SCE spokesperson David Song told the Source. “But we’re working at it. And we’re not just working to maintain the grid. We’re going to upgrade it.”
To update Alhambra’s power grid, SCE started a “circuit reliability management” process in 2012 to identify the circuits in Alhambra that have the most outages. In 2015 SCE started a city-wide construction process to improve these circuits. The projects include above-ground and under-ground improvements.
Several councilmembers expressed their dissatisfaction with SCE’s performance to-date. “You’ve neglected us,” Councilmember Steven Placido said to SCE representatives. “Why do we have double the number of outages that other cities have?”
Mayor Luis Ayala said that residents have complained to him about SCE’s customer service center. He said that locals call the center to inquire about power outages, only to leave without answers. Councilmember Stephen Sham said he hoped that SCE would improve its conduct with customers, as SCE is the only electricity provider in Alhambra. “It’s not like a cable service, where a customer can switch to Time Warner or something else,” said Sham.
“We’re committed to telling our customers the information they need,” Song told the Source. He added that customer service representatives are equipped to provide customers with up-to-date information. Call center reps have access to an “outage management center” to check the status of outages. Moreover, workers on the field use a centralized system to communicate with reps about the progress of a certain outage. “There is information flowing from the field,” said Song.