Trees and weather continued to be the primary causes of outages on WEC lines in 2022, and two back-to-back major storms in the final two weeks of the year severely escalated the number of member hours out. Combined with another major storm in April, the three weather events classified as major storms made up a third of WEC’s 2022 outages. Those storms led to more than half a million member hours out (the combined total of outage time experienced by all members).
Aside from major storms, 384 outages were caused by trees falling on power lines. This is a well-known concern for WEC: its rural lines were originally strung offroad and across farmland. As that land returns to forest, fast-growing transition tree species, like poplar and birch, are susceptible to falling on lines. In addition, trees killed by the emerald ash borer remain a major threat.
To improve reliability, WEC leadership has continued to invest in maintenance clearing of rights-of-way. In addition, Engineering and Operations Director Dave Kresock noted in his annual report to state regulators that in 2022, “WEC decided to move away from Class 3 pole sizes and started replacing poles with a stronger, thicker Class 2 pole to provide added protection against falling trees.”
But in one category, outages went down by more than 200%. Outages initiated by WEC for line maintenance went down in large part because WEC launched a rubber gloving program. Protective rubber gloving allows lineworkers to work safely on energized lines, which means members don’t need to prepare for a planned outage when WEC needs to work on a nearby power line.
Separate outages on WEC’s system in 2022, not including major storms
874 / 730 / 589
Number of separate outages on WEC’s system in 2022 / 2021 / 2020
Number of WEC consumer hours out in 2022, not including major storms
The average annual number of consumer hours out over the last three years, not including major storms
2022 weather events that met major storm criteria: April 19, December 16, December 23
Number of calls WEC received from members without power during Winter Storm Elliott
Percentage decrease in planned outages, partially due to new rubber gloving program
Number of 2022 outages caused by trees
Number of 2022 outages caused by weather, not including major storms
miles of distribution line that received maintenance clearing in 2022
miles of line cleared by WEC’s skid-steer forestry head mulcher in 2022
For updates about where tree crews are currently working to clear rights-of-way, look for the “Where’s WEC” column in most issues of Co-op Currents or visit our Right-of-Way & Field Work Notices page.