By Madeline Thomas, AAE Research & Development Intern
To understand how outages are covered through media, articles from New Orleans’ top news outlets were collected and compared to ENO’s 18 months of outage data. These sources included TV stations, newspapers, radio stations, and even ENO’s own Twitter and Facebook. The data and patterns found were surprising.
Accounting only for outages reported by local media from June 2017 through November 2018, ENO failed to include 28 significant power outages in which over 88,780 customers were apparently affected in their required bi-monthly reporting. These 28 outages were documented in various news stories yet left out of ENO’s reports. Actual Customer Minutes (ACMs) are calculated from the number of customers affected multiplied by the length of time each outage lasted. Calculations for total ACMs for all 28 events could not be determined as not all articles documented specific time frames.
Additionally, 13 outage events reported by both the media and the utility’s filing showed that ENO omitted a total of 34,568 affected customers from their reports. Many outages that were fully ignored in ENO’s reports were published by the media but data on the total number of customers affected was not included. For these cases, the overall customer impact is unclear. Using articles that reported both the number of customers affected and the total length of each interruption, ENO failed to report a total of 14,425,972 actual customer minutes over the course of eighteen months.
The top five cases of egregiously unreported outages are shown in Table 1 and listed by the number of customers affected. On December 1, 2017, the Times Picayune reported 5,400 customers without power in the French Quarter due to equipment problems. Second, on June 29, 2017, the Times Picayune reported 6,000 customers lost power in the CBD when equipment was stolen from a substation. On March 6, 2018, the Times Picayune reported a 10,000 customer outage in Uptown caused by a tripped a breaker during a storm which was later not reported in Entergy’s bi-monthly filing. Third, on November 14, 2018, Entergy’s Twitter reported a case in which over 10,000 customers lost power due to a breaker tripping in the 7th Ward and surrounding areas, yet this data was not found in their reports. Lastly, on July 3, 2018, the Times Picayune reported over 13,000 customers in Uptown were not reported by Entergy but reported due to heavy rainfall.
Top Five Unreported Power Outages
The top five cases of under-reported outages in ascending order was first reported by the Times Picayune, on May 18, 2018, they reported 2,300 customers lost power due to severe storms. Yet Entergy in their bi-monthly filings only reported that 62 customers lost power during this time.On May 15, 2018, according to the Advocate, 23,000 customers lost power due to a tripped breaker at a substation, while Entergy only reported 19,100 customers were affected. Third, on December 7, 2017, the Advocate reported 4,500 customers with no reason reported. Entergy only reported 151 customers who were affected. Fourth, on August 25, 2017, the Times Picayune reported 7,500 customers were out of power without a reason reported, while Entergy reported that only 547 customers lost power. On November 3, 2018, Times Picayune reported 10,513 customers lost power due to freezing temperatures that caused a jumper to malfunction, yet Entergy only reported six customers who experienced an outage.
Top Five Under-Reported Power Outages
The media reported on the main causes for power outages that Entergy did not report a reason. The main causes of the power outages were “equipment” and “other”. Although there is a discrepancy with missing data, even the media cannot report the reason for the power outage. An outage falls in the “equipment” related category if there is a failure of a piece of equipment. Outages are reported as “other” when a foreign object is caught in power lines, like balloons, or when Entergy does not know what caused the power outage. In this case the company will state the outage is “under investigation”, yet it appears that the conclusions of those investigations are never provided in a follow up.
Entergy has continuously not reported or under-reported thousands of customer outages in their required bi-monthly filings. These include power outages that the company reports on their own Facebook and Twitter with ambiguous causes that leave the New Orleans community confused and more frustrated. It is unclear why such large outages are un- or under-reported. What is clear is that New Orleans deserves better.