Electricity powers lives – both our necessities and our fun – like never before. Much of the infrastructure that delivers electricity has been in service 30 to even 50, 60 or more years. While we’ve maintained it over time, just as with a trusted family car, it reaches a point where the safe, cost-effective thing to do is to replace it with more modern equipment. We are launching several initiatives to install equipment that is stronger, more resilient and, in some cases, able to communicate potential problems back to our technicians, either preventing an outage or shortening it because we are able to locate the cause faster.
Westar is undertaking eight demonstration projects. Results from these projects will be used to help guide requests for future initiatives to continue to make electrical service more reliable. In 2015, we proposed a program to our regulator, the Kansas Corporation Commission, that would provide for a $200 million, five-year investment to update the infrastructure that delivers electricity into our communities and to the homes and businesses that depend on it. Our proposal would have been the first phase of a 15-year program. Instead, we were granted permission to invest $50 million over about 17 months to begin demonstrating the impacts of proactive investment to update and strengthen the power grid.
Urban circuit rebuild – A circuit in Topeka was selected to be rebuilt. Equipment that has been in service 10 years or longer will be replaced. Streetlights will be updated with LED lights. Homes and businesses will be equipped with digital meters that improve outage response times and enable online tools that allow customers to have a better understanding of their electricity use. The circuit was selected because customers served by it have experienced frequent outages and often the lines and equipment needed to make repairs are difficult to access.