PPL serves 54,000 customers in Lycoming County

The PPL Electric Utilities Susquehanna Service Center, 4810 Lycoming Mall Drive, Montoursville, provides Lycoming County with electricity.

“We serve 29 counties in Pennsylvania, and it’s 1.4 million customers,” said Tracie Witter, regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities.

In Lycoming County, there are approximately 54,000 customers.

“We have about 48,000 miles of power lines,” she said. “Just to give you a sort of analogy, that’s enough to reach around the world two times. That’s in the 29 counties.”

She said the company strives to be reliable for both its business and residential customers.

“We take a lot of pride in being reliable. We are in the top quartile for reliability,” she said. “Reliability means minimizing the number of times your power actually goes out and then restoring it quickly.”

She said the company is number one in the entire East Coast for large utilities in customer service.

“That’s a J.D. Power award,” she said. “We’ve won 25 J.D. Power and associates awards for top quality service for residential and business customers, so we’re very proud of that.”

She said they have a very dedicated customer service department.

“They’re very responsive to customers, and we have an outage map where people can go online. They can see the cause of the outage and the approximate time of when their power will be restored,” she said. “You can access that from the website or from your mobile device. Our website is responsive design … It’s all mobile friendly. I can pay my bill, and I can check for outages.”

When the power is out, customers are able to look on their phones for information about what’s going on in their area.

“We’ve invested $30 million in tree-trimming, and we’ve increased it to $60 million for the next five years,” she said. “It’s really important because it’s the number one cause of power outages, fallen trees.”

She said they also sent crews down to Florida to help out with Hurricane Irma relief.

“We felt our vegetation management was so strong, and that would have greatly helped Florida if they had as an aggressive vegetation management program,” she said. “Certainly, the elements were an issue, but maybe the damage could have been lessened.”

On top of being able to manage trees from damaging power lines, the company also gives back to the environment.

“It’s a balancing act for PPL because we know we have to trim the trees, but we’re also very environmentally conscious,” Witter said. “A program that we launched this past fall is called Community Roots … We took orders in the fall for 20,000 trees, deciduous and evergreen seedlings.”

They donated 20,000 trees to nonprofits, schools and organizations.

“That was our way for showing the community that we do care about the environment,” she said. “We’re very community minded. We have a very strong, very capable workforce.”

Last year, the company gave $4.5 million in grants toward educational, workforce development and community revitalization programs within their service area.

“The investment we all make in our communities, where we all live, work and play, is because PPL wants healthy communities,” she said.

The company is always trying to improve and has made changes to their infrastructure for better service.

“We’re building reliable systems, and we made significant investments to improve the delivery system. We’ve replaced aging facilities and built new ones to meet the demand and make the network more reliable,” she said. “When you see new poles going up and new wires, they’re more reliable because they’re newer. We also applied something called Smart Grid Technology.”

Smart Grid has sensors on poles that detect outages, according to Witter.

“That automatically reroutes power to a different line to customers. That’s why outages might be like a minute or less,” she said. “It’s automatically done, whereas in the past without Smart Grid, they have to call the trucks. The lineman would go up to manually reroute the power or repair it.”

The new technology allows that process to happen automatically without having to wait for someone to manually do it.

“When the line is fixed, it goes back to the original line,” she said.

They have over 4,500 Smart Grid switches in the 29 county area.

“Power is really the lifeline for people. When people lose their power, they’re somewhat paralyzed,” she said. “Our customers really depend on us … Power is the lifeblood of the community.”

For more information, visit www.pplelectric.com or call 1-800-342-5775.

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