Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) announced that as of Tuesday evening, it has restored service to slightly more than 2 million customers within the first day of Hurricane Irma's exit from its service territory. Currently, approximately 2.3 million customers remain without power.
"We know that the most important thing our customers want to know is when they'll get their lights back on," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "Based upon our initial assessment, it would appear that the significant investments we've made in hardening our energy grid will allow for a quicker restoration. As a result, we fully expect to restore power to essentially all of our customers throughout our service territory by end of day next Friday, with the exception of areas impacted by tornados, severe flooding and other sections of severe damage. You have our commitment we will not rest until everyone has their power back."
FPL has a restoration workforce of more than 20,000, including FPL employees, along with workers from contracting companies and our partner utilities from nearly 30 states and Canada.
FPL estimates that it will have restored power to essentially all of its customers along the East Coast service territory by the end of this coming weekend, and for its customers along its West Coast service territory by end of day Sept. 22, with the possible exception of areas impacted by tornadoes, severe flooding and other sections of severe damage.
"We understand how challenging it is to be without power, and we take our responsibility to our customers – our own families, friends and neighbors – seriously," said Silagy. "We ask for the patience of our customers as we undertake one of the most challenging rebuild and restoration efforts in our company's history."
Immediately after a storm, we know if main power lines have been damaged. If customers believe their power is out for this reason, there is no need to contact us.
FPL is currently experiencing issues with FPL.com and the FPL Mobile App due to extreme high volume and is working to resolve the situation. Customers should call FPL at 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243) only to report conditions such as downed power lines or sparking electrical equipment. Call 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
Investments in the grid
Over the last 11 years, FPL has invested nearly $3 billion to make the energy grid smarter, stronger and more storm-resilient.
"This is the first real test of the grid following our significant investments and, so far, we are encouraged by what we're seeing," said Silagy. "Initial assessments suggest that hardened FPL feeders, which are our main power lines, performed 30 percent better during Irma than non-hardened feeders. The number of poles down across FPL's system also appears to be low despite Irma's high winds, particularly across Florida's West Coast."
After one day of restoration, FPL has restored 40 percent of the more than 5 million outages, as compared to just 4 percent in the same time period during the company's Hurricane Wilma restoration effort in 2005. In addition, Wilma impacted a smaller portion of our service territory – 21 counties – whereas Irma affected all 27,000 square miles covering 35 counties.
"This is an unprecedented event – for both our company and our customers," said Silagy. "Most of the outages we're seeing are a result of trees and debris blowing into our lines. Hurricane Irma's devastating wrath was felt throughout the entire state – the storm uprooted trees, transformed roads into rivers, tore roofs off homes and businesses, and left millions of Floridians in the dark," said Silagy. "That said, we train for this year-round and we are better prepared for hurricanes now than at any time in our company's history. We have mobilized the largest restoration force in U.S. history and you have our firm commitment that we won't stop working until every last customer's lights are back on."
How we restore power
FPL has begun restoring power in multiple locations. We follow an overall plan that calls for restoring power to the largest number of customers safely and as quickly as possible. We don't restore power based on when customers report an outage, where customers live or the status of accounts:
· We start by repairing any damage to our power plants and the power lines that carry electricity from our plants to the local substations.
· We prioritize restoring power to critical facilities, such as hospitals, police and fire stations, communication facilities, water treatment plants, transportation providers and shelters.
· At the same time, we work to return service to the largest number of customers in the shortest amount of time − including service to major thoroughfares that host supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and other needed community services.
· From here, we repair the infrastructure serving smaller groups and neighborhoods, converging on the hardest-hit areas until every customer's power is restored.
As restoration continues, there are a few ways customers can help:
· Avoid stopping crews to ask when power will be restored. Directing questions to FPL restoration workers slows down their work and, more importantly, can compromise their safety. Typically, restoration workers don't know restoration times. They've been assigned to a single segment of an affected line. FPL will provide estimated times of restoration through the media, Facebook, Twitter and FPL.com.
· When you're out driving, clear the way for FPL trucks so that crews can get to their next work site faster. The restoration workers truly appreciate this courtesy, as they work long hours to get the power back on for all affected customers.
· When gathering post-storm debris, keep utility poles and transformers clear so that restoration workers have access to them.
Please stay safe
Even when winds have subsided, conditions can be dangerous. We urge customers in stormy and flooded areas to take the following safety precautions:
· Stay far away from downed power lines, flooding and debris; lines could be energized and dangerous.
· Use extreme caution while driving. Power interruptions may cause traffic signals to stop working without warning. If you come to an intersection with a non-working traffic signal, Florida law requires that you treat it as a four-way stop.
· If using a portable generator:
o Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for proper use;
o Plug appliances directly into the generator, not into the main electric panel, because the electricity may flow back into power lines and cause injuries;
o Only a licensed electrician should connect a generator to a main electric panel;
o Never operate a generator inside your home or garage; and
o Keep generators well away from open windows to prevent dangerous fumes from entering your home or a neighbor's home.
· Ensure that all electric appliances, especially ovens and stoves, are turned off to prevent fires.
· Exercise caution and avoid all power lines when cleaning up hurricane debris and vegetation:
o No trimming should be done near a power line. Do not attempt to remove or trim foliage within 10 feet of a power line. If a tree or tree limbs have fallen on a power line or pulled it down, do not approach the line or the tree. Customers should call FPL at 1-800-4OUTAGE (1-800-468-8243) to report conditions such as downed power lines or sparking electrical equipment. Call 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
o Be especially careful when working with any extended equipment or tools. Be sure that ladders or scaffolds are far enough away so that you – and the ends of the tools you're using – stay at least 10 feet away from power lines.
How to recognize FPL workers and contractors
FPL takes the safety of our customers very seriously, and we want you to know how to identify FPL workers:
· FPL employees carry a photo identification badge.
· The cars and trucks of non-FPL employees who are helping with restoration efforts are typically marked as FPL-approved contractors or emergency workers.
· FPL employees, contractors and workers from other utilities helping with post-storm restoration efforts may need to work on your property, but they will not need to enter your home or business.
How to stay informed
FPL communicates restoration information to customers frequently through the news media and the following resources:
· FPL website: FPL.com
· Twitter: twitter.com/insideFPL
· Facebook: facebook.com/FPLconnect
· FPL blog: FPLblog.com
· FPL Power Tracker: FPL.com/powertracker
Visit FPL.com/powertracker for outage information.
Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the third-largest electric utility in the United States, serving nearly 5 million customer accounts or an estimated 10 million people across nearly half of the state of Florida. FPL's typical 1,000-kWh residential customer bill is approximately 25 percent lower than the latest national average and, in 2016, was the lowest in Florida among reporting utilities for the seventh year in a row. FPL's service reliability is better than 99.98 percent, and its highly fuel-efficient power plant fleet is one of the cleanest among all utilities nationwide. The company received the top ranking in the southern U.S. among large electric providers, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction StudySM, and was recognized in 2017 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Market Strategies International. A leading Florida employer with approximately 8,900 employees, FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, ethics and diversity, and has been ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune's 2017 list of "World's Most Admired Companies."