AEP = Always Erratic Power

AEP repair crew at Midway on US 221 south of Floyd

At least 3,300 Floyd Countians spent Christmas day without power because Appalachian Electric Power’s (AEP) ineffective management proved once again it can’t handle weather emergencies in our region.

The ice storm that struck Southwestern Virginia in the early morning hours took out power to 5,430 homes in the Roanoke and Christiansburg Districts for the holiday and many other homes lost power off and on for most of the day.

This came on top of the 27,700 customers still without power from the snow storm a week ago.

At a time when AEP piles rate increase on top of rate increase with claims of superior service, their performance every time the weather turns bad raises questions not only about their reliability and performance but also about their honesty.

UPDATE: At 7 p.m. today, about 2,100 homes in Floyd County remained without power. AEP reports it does not expect to restore all power until sometime Monday. More than 20,000 customers in Southwestern Virginia are still powerless from the storm a week ago and the power company admits it may be sometime next week before power is restored to many of them.

29 COMMENTS

  1. It looks like they need to do some major tree trimming this year. I’ve heard that it may be the middle of next week before some of us have power again. Thankfully I have a generator that can pull both my heat ( outdoor furnace) and my water. Our power has been off quite a bit this month, I bet I will have spent $40 on gas for the generator.

  2. It does not matter how much tree trimming they do, there is always going to be some issues with ice on the lines and wind damage, not to mention branches falling. People complain when they clear the right of ways, people complain if they dont.

    As of a few minutes ago, most of the people I talked to had power. There are some areas of Check and Copper Hill that are still without, but it should not be too long. One of my customers lives on Barberry Rd, and according to AEP’s phone and website info, power would be back to them by the 29th, but they had it back last night.

    The crews are out getting the repairs done, I personally feel they should be thanked instead of accosted on the internet.

    • More than 2,000 Floyd County residents still do not have power at 4:30 p.m. today. Much of the Southern area of the county is dark and AEP is telling those residents not to expect power before midnight. That information comes direct from the company dispatcher and not from just talking to a few people.

      I’ve lived in areas with weather far more severe than Southwestern Virginia and have been a customer of many different utilities and AEP ranks as one of the worst that I have dealt with in terms of reliability and customer service. The problem is not with the crews who are out there working to restore power but with a management that fails to implement a workable severe weather plan and one that puts return to shareholders above upgrading of equipment and service to customers.

      But rest assured that AEP will milk the problems of this power outage as an excuse for even more onerous rate hike requests in a lame attempt to justify its own mismanagement.

      As for accosting them on the Internet, I have not yet begun to accost.

      • I agree on the fact they will likely use this as a lame excuse when they re-petition the SCC this spring for yet another rate hike. Personally, I feel that when they merged with the other 6 utility companies in the late 90’s, it was the end of an era of true customer service utilities that were for customer first, profit second. Now it is nothing more than a corporate cash machine, and they have enough lobbyists in their pocket that it does not matter to them, they can continue going on about their ways.

  3. Almost everyone I know up here in Check do not have power. About a hour ago they were working on the lines out near the county line. I suspect the power will be a while for some of us that are off the main road.

    • I was going to Roanoke for some Christmas dinners, and on the way down I passed 6 AEP trucks, 15 Pike, and 11 from Asplund. There was a line down across 221 between Stuart Rd and River Ridge, and it was back up when I came back through an hour ago. They definitely out in full force working on getting it back up and operating.

      The thing that sucks is the way the feeds are for the county, a problem in Patrick county can affect Floyd, and some in Franklin can cause issues out your way.

  4. Our power went out at 2 p.m. Christmas Day and is still not on. I wonder if JKaylor is the Joey Kaylor of Protocol who was talking at one time about running for the county board of supervisors. If so, he would have fit right in. Anybody who can make excuses for AEP is a born politician.

    • I am not making excuses for AEP in the least. If any other business model attempted to operate like theirs, it would be considered a monopoly and the government would shut it down. But since its “regulated” (and I use that phrase very, very loosely) by the SCC, the government feels that is sufficient to prevent “customer abuse”. I fully agree with Doug on the fact that their management sucks, and they have very poor customer service.

      Case in point: The substation on 615 here in town is currently undergoing a massive (8 million dollars+) switchgear and transformer upgrade. I spoke with a retired lineman a few months back about this, and he told me those upgrades have been being pushed back since the late ’80s. They refuse to put their profits to use bettering the companies infrastructure, and would rather use it to increase their shareholders earnings for the year, cause at the end of the day greed rules all in this world. It sucks, but if there is an opportunity to make a buck now, or take that money and invest back in the company to make more money in 10 years, most of the time the management decisions are made in regards to short term profits.

      My biggest issue I have about people complaining when the power goes out is they tend to take it out on the linemen and subcontractor crews. These guys are out there risking life and limb trying to get power back to the people that are complaining the whole time. And they take it pretty well, I know most of the guys from AEP locally, have for quite some time. These guys are some of the hardest working people I know, and will quite literally give you the shirt off their back if you need it. I liken it to a situation similar, but nowhere near as complex, as our current war in Iraq/Afghanistan/etc. You may not agree with the reasoning for them being there, but these guys are out there busting their ass to get the job done, please support them however you can.

      • Joey, no one here was criticizing the linemen (and women) who get out in this frigid weather to restore power yet you inferred “accosted” them on the Internet.

        The workers on the line don’t make the decisions to divert profits from improving the infrastructure and giving them to investors. The workers on the line don’t fail to implement a company-wide strategy to effectively deal with weather emergencies.

        If I had a beef with the AEP employees who actually work for a living I would have said so. Your response made it sound like I did. I appreciate comments from readers but I’d appreciate not having words put into my mouth or conclusions reached on something that I neither said nor intended.

        • You are correct Doug, no one on here was directing comments straight to the linemen. My comments were made in reference to the fact that instead of complaining about the service outages, if someone had the opportunity to be out and saw one of the workers, to thank them for what they are doing.

          I was a little irate already yesterday because I saw a person going off on a lineman asking why their power wasnt on yet, and that person was calling the worker a bunch of things the man did not deserve, all while doing his job.

          My apologies if it came across as twisting your words.

          • Anyone who takes their wrath out on the linemen should be the last to get power restored. The folks in the trucks and who climb the polls are all our saviors in these storms. It’s not their fault they work for a company run by greedy despots who put profits ahead of the needs of customers.

  5. JKaylor needs to check his facts. We live near Buffalo Mountain Road south of Willis and we’ve had a generator on because our power has been out since 5:30 this morning and the power company tells us not to expect it back on before midnight. The entire area here is without power.

    I have family in Indian Valley and they have been without power since early Christmas Day.

    Rather than make excuses for the poor performance of the power company we need someone to take action to keep these robber barons from taking our money without delivering service.

    • You are correct, I did not speak with anyone from the southern end of the county. It is always worse in the Indian Valley/Copper Valley/Buffalo Mountain area than it is in my area when it comes to ice storms.

      It is a very wise move having a standby generator living in this area, you may not need it often, but it is worth having if you are in an area that is fed from single-sources such as where you live. I would love to see them go to a loop-feed on all the rural lines off the main branches, but I highly doubt it will ever happen unless someone forces them to.

      Our county is perfect for phasing in a fully smart grid, and I wish that it would happen. Unfortunately, unless the right people make that call, its nothing more than a pipe dream. There are several people in this county that are pushing for a major infrastructure upgrade move though, and I fully support them in their efforts.

  6. My power is out and so are at least two dozen of my neighbors. Thank goodness we have a good generator. I don’t know who JKaylor has been talking to but it must be a very limited selection of Floyd Countians.

  7. Hey Joey, I’ve got a deal for you! If you are so damned sure the power will be back on tonight, why don’t you come over an stay at our place. If the power comes back on we’ll feed you a nice breakfast in the morning But if it does not come back on then you have to go out in the middle of the night and add gas to the generator. Deal?

    • I will be happy to come by and offer assistance if you would like, give me an address and I will be there with fuel for your generator. That is a serious offer, if you would like I will come out. 540-392-2975 is my cell number, and I have a vehicle with chains on it.

  8. Our power came back on about 30 minutes ago. We don’t have a generator so we’ve been dark and cold for more than 24 hours. After reading the responses here I wonder how many reports of power outages you would have received if everyone had a generator and could still be on the internet? Mr. Kaylor says most of the people he talked to had power. Maybe that is the point. The people who didn’t have power couldn’t talk to him.

    • I had a customer in Check I tried to get in touch with all morning, and his phone went straight to voicemail. After realizing he was not on Facebook (and he lives on it lol) I gathered that his power was out. And it still is from info I got from a lineman earlier this evening.

  9. Sandra, I would think that a politician would say what you wanted to hear, in other words if Mr Kaylor was a politician he would be whining about AEP. As much as everyone hates AEP they still have one of the lowest rates around. I lived near Lynchburg for several years and the rates down there are much higher. As much as I hate paying my power bill I am still thankful to be on AEP. Thanks to our close proximity to coal and coal power plants we have lower rates than most of the US. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html Here is a link to what other folks are paying in other states.

    • The rates may have been lower when you were in Lynchburg but I doubt they are now, not with the back-to-back increases from AEP. That link you provided shows we pay higher residential rates than our neighbors in North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia or Georgia. It has been my experience watching the board of supervisors here that they protect the status quo and that is never what I want to hear. Few members of our board of supervisors have ever pandered to the public but they do pander to the power structure, like AEP. I doubt the families that spent Christmas cold and in the dark were “thankful to be on AEP.” I doubt that the families that are struggling to make ends meet and now must pay higher utility rates are “thankful to be on AEP.”

      Defend them if you want. In my book, they are exactly what Jolie called them: robber barons.

      • Sandra, I cover the board of supervisors for The Floyd Press and have been a critic of some of their actions and policies but they have been consistent in opposing the onerous rate increases by AEP. They recognize the tremendous hardships that these increases put on cash-strapped families.

      • Sandra, If you will compare AEP’s rates with the rates listed in the link above I think you will find that they are below the average in Va. The reason I know this is becouse of my job. I sell outdoor furnaces and lately we have been selling them almost exclusively to folks with heat pumps. Electricity rates is a conversation I have with customers on a weekly basis. Many companies in Va buy power from AEP and then resell it at a proffit. When AEP goes up they do also. The reasons with rate increases are many and I don’t know all of them. One of them is the increased price of coal. Two things are and will continue to drive up the cost of coal. China is paying crazy prices for coal, it does cost a lot to ship but there is a lot heading over seas. Environmental restrictions also drive up coal prices, some are necessary and some may not be. I have quite a few friends and customers who work in the coal mines. What I’m hearing from them is that the government is driving the small mines out of business and that soon the only working mines will be owned by huge companies. I don’t have all the answers but I can sure see some of the problems.

        • Gee, it sucks that there isnt a readily available, cheap, pretty safe and almost limitless power source available.

          coughnuclearcough lol.

  10. God bless my Guardian (generator) and the guy (Doug) who introduced me to it. Live with the reality of erratic power and prepare for it, grasshopper.

    • Exactly. In my short 27 years in this county, I can recall multiple instances when the power was out for more than a few hours. I grew up on Spanglers Mill Rd, and when we had the blizzard (94? somewhere around there) we were without power for 16 days. VDOT didnt even plow the road till day 8.

      Living in a rural area has drawbacks, but being prepared is the key thing. You running a dual fuel gas/propane or diesel?

      • Guardians are made by Generac, a company that makes commercial deisel generators. The home units run on natural gas or propane. We installed a 15kw unit when we bought our house in 2004 and fuel it with a 350-gallon propane tank. It burns about 3/4 gallon of propane an hour.

        When an ice storm knocked out our power for 10 days two years ago, the Guardian ran 24 hours a day without a hitch and still had fuel left when power was restored.

        The Guardians use an automatic switching system that starts the generator 45 seconds after the power shuts down and restores power to the house in sections. When the power comes back on, the system switches back over in sections to avoid an overload and then goes into a cool down cycle before shutting down. The unit also runs a self-test once a week for 12 minutes to keep the engine lubricated and the battery charged.

        Tom bought a smaller unit based on my recommendation. We consider the Guardian the best investment we’ve made on the house.

  11. I just want to say AEP linemen are the best they work really hard, thanks for all your hard work.
    as for AEP someone tell me how it goes here I’m new here 1 1/2 years and in IL. from which I came almost never an outage BUT if there were , the power company mailed a check for lost items in the refrigerator, is this so here, I’m sure there were a lot.
    There is a , board called CUB (citizens Utility Board ) which try’s to keep the power company in check.
    There are simply no reasons for these types of outages this often , and it seems like it’s always the same place town is fine and along Parkway is out, seems like just cut back trees and update equipment till it won’t go down with ice.,
    Winters are a LOT rougher in other places then here and the power stays on ?
    But again it’s not the employees working on the lines it’s management not spending the money to update.
    AND I THINK MY BILL NOW HAS INCREASED 47% IN A YEAR AND A HALF.
    I know this would have never happened with cub looking over there shoulder, and they have the gall to increase the bill 30% after a 17% increase last year, even though they don’t have this increase approved and will refund if they don’t get the permission to increase , thats the craziest thing I’ve heard in a while.
    Certified monopoly abuse in my mind!

    • Welcome to APCO country Bob. The 94 storms Mr. Kaylor references were both ice storms and both supposedly 100 year storms, the first occuring on Valentine’s Day and the 2nd two weeks later on 1 March. APCO underwent an absolutely major renovation of its infrastrucuture (mostly poles and wire) after those two events. We were without power 7 days following the first storm and 5 days following the 2nd.
      We had crews from WV stopping by our house asking for directions to Blue Ridge Restaruant late in the evenings. On one stop a crew member pulled a handful of round metal tags out of his pocket. These tags had been nailed to power poles with the year stamped on them when the pole was planted. Many of those tags dated to the late 30s and early 40s!!!!! This lineman told me he and his co-workers couldn’t believe how antiquated the Floyd County lines were. As I recall his favorite recurring comment was “and you call us from WV a bunch of backwards hillbillies”. He said many of the poles were already rotten and it was a wonder they were still standing prior to the storms. Additionally, he claimed APCO hadn’t cut their ROW for years and trees were grown over the ROW everywhere. Those revelations helped explain our favorite saying prior to those storms that everytime a squirrel in the woods passed gas, the power went out.
      As I stated earlier, following this mess, APCO came in and replaced 1,000s of poles, line, put in the new substation over on Rt 8 near Dusty Rock Rd and really cut back the trees on their ROW. Of course, that is now over 16 years ago and trees do have a way of growing back. I wonder how much precious stockholder money APCO has spent since 94 to keep those trees back? Apparently not a lot.
      I, for one am fed up with APCO and its never-ending power increases. I am now looking into a Rinnai propane gas, on demand water heater. After that, I think I’ll consider a propane stove for the home. I built my home with a Clayton wood burning furnace so don’t have to worry about electric heat. I am considering running a water line around the Clayton’s firebox to preheat my water for the water heater, using the old electric water heater as the preheat resevoir. Ultimately, I hope to cut my monthly sacrificial offering to APCO significantly. No, I’m not prepared to completely go off-grid, but I certainly would love to reduce my monthly electric bill.
      We have a 5500 watt, gasoline generator that works just fine for everything except the stove and electric water heater. I only need to disconnect from the main and feed the generator’s 220 back thru my water pump. I turn off all my breakers then just flip on the ones I want to power freezers, refrigerators, microwave, lights, etc as needed, making sure I don’t exceed the capacity of the generator. The one, major, IMPORTANT thing is to REMEMBER to FIRST DISCONNECT from the main or you could electrocute those lineman out there working thru freezing temps, nasty weather and lord knows what else trying to get the power back up. As an electrician told me once, those transformers outside your house step that power down to your house. Electric going the other way can be stepped up. OUCH!!!

  12. Free market, that’s what they call the bright idea that Gilmore’s (I’ll trust ya’ll to correct me if my memory has failed) legislature had, following the lead of those California PUC’s (ENRON anyone?).
    So we have the honor of seeing de-regulation of the power co’s. Now who’d be surprised if the price of power continues tracking upward. Might be some wisdom in generating your own power, solar, wind, gas, diesel,

    Anyone with a freezer and dependent on power should count on using that generator about 2 hours a day. We can do with out 24 hour power, but running water and and protecting food seem crucial.
    Best to all…

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