The electric utility for the northern Illinois area, ComEd, reported 14 percent fewer outages than in 2007.

On average during 2008, ComEd customers experienced 1.33 outages per customer, which is down 13 percent from 1.53 outages in 2007. This included an 11 percent improvement in non-storm-related outages. Since 1998, customers have experienced 39 percent fewer outages.

“Our enhanced reliability reflects the investments we have made in our systems and people as well as the continued strong commitment by our employees to keep our customers’ lights on and, when outages occurred, restore service as quickly and safely as possible,” said J. Barry Mitchell, ComEd president and chief operating officer.

Five storms during the first two weeks of June 2008 disrupted service to about 500,000 customers. These storms included a tornado that severely damaged five transmission towers along Interstate 57, shutting down the highway. In August 2008, ComEd restored power within 48 hours to 98 percent of the more than 500,000 customers affected by a powerful storm. Following an ice storm on Dec. 19, 2008, 170,000 customers lost power, and ComEd crews restored service to 99 percent of them within 48 hours.

Mitchell cited ComEd’s preventative and corrective maintenance programs as being key to the company’s reliability. Maintenance includes vegetation management to protect electrical lines from tree contact, system engineering to achieve optimal equipment operations, and regular visual inspections of above-ground electrical lines.

Overall, there has been a broad focus on making energy distribution and transmission more reliable, and this case is simply more proof of the successes that can come from high-voltage electrical maintenance work.