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AEP Ohio Outage Review: PUCO report leaves neighborhood inequity questions unanswered and does not mention climate change.

In mid-June, 250,000 AEP Ohio customers were affected by statewide blackouts, some of whom didn’t get power restored for a week. Six months later, the PUCO also released a 17-page review of AEP Ohio’s outage response. Click here to view a full copy of the OEC petition questions and the PUCO’s answers from its report. Here are some key highlights:

Petition Question:PUCO Answer:
Why did only certain neighborhoods get shut off?[T]he location of the forced outages were the areas where the demand for electricity exceeded the system’s ability to supply it due to the damaged facilities. Report page 7.
How long did AEP Ohio have to respond?AEP Ohio must begin acting immediately and must fully comply [with load shedding orders] within 30 minutes. Report page 7.
Did AEP Ohio prioritize some areas for restoration over others?Generally, [utilities] prioritize the restoration of critical facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, and nursing homes. Other restoration factors include number of customers, level of damage, type of circuit, and available resources, including workforce.
How did climate change affect the outages?The report does not address climate change or storm related events outside of June 2022. Report page 5.
Which neighborhoods, by zip code and demographic, had the worst shutoffs?The report does not answer this question but does include a small map of the outages.

PUCO’s Outage Review:

The summer outages sparked public outcry. In response, the PUCO held a July 13, 2022 public meeting where AEP Ohio executives explained the outages. Customers were not allowed to question the utility. During the public meeting, AEP Ohio stressed it had very little time to act and stated there was nothing it could have done differently to avoid the outages. The utility did not explain why transmission lines and substations in some communities were less able to handle the larger electricity load, compared to others. It also acknowledged that climate change contributed to the extreme weather conditions, but did not outline any plans to address or prepare for climate change. 

These omissions left Ohioans without adequate answers. 375 OEC members signed a petition asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to seek answers and hold AEP Ohio accountable. 

On January 3, 2023, six months after the outages, the PUCO released a 17-page review. This report focused on the events right before and during the outage itself, but this outage occurred within the much larger context of climate change and infrastructure investments. These factors affected the June 2022 outage and will affect future outages. We still need more information to further understand how we can improve the grid to mitigate climate change and avoid disparate impacts to low-income and neighborhoods of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

Click here to view a full copy of the petition OEC members signed after the outages last year with questions for the PUCO.