Our field work meets exacting requirements for safety to keep our employees and the public unharmed. CECONY and O&R regularly communicate with customers on topics such as electric safety, gas safety, severe weather safety, downed power lines, Call 811 before you dig, and storm preparation tips.
Ongoing efforts to increase public awareness about safety continue to bear fruit: Many public safety initiatives have led to the development of strategic partnerships with subject matter experts, as well as new programs and the improvement of existing programs. For example, we installed vented manhole and service box covers to help limit the buildup of combustible gases.
We also perform extensive testing of contact voltage, otherwise known as stray voltage—a search for electrical energy where it shouldn’t be found such as on traffic lights, lampposts, and sidewalk grates.
Con Edison’s underground networks are surveyed for contact voltage 12 times a year, using mobile detectors. In 2015, we found and eliminated 2,791 cases of contact voltage. Of those, 902 cases (or 32%) were on non-Con Edison equipment (streetlights, electric signs, and other structures). We also performed more than 60,000 inspections of our underground system, which includes manholes, service boxes, and transformer vaults.
O&R’s testing of publicly accessible electric system components and non-company metallic streetlight and traffic signal poles for contact voltage is completed once every five years. During 2015, O&R found and eliminated eight cases of contact voltage, all on company-owned equipment, and performed 37,329 tests and inspections.
Our efforts to inform the public have given us a valuable ally when it comes to gas safety. Some 56,000 odor calls were received from the public in 2015—more than double the number in 2013.
We continue to expand our public outreach and education on natural gas safety through our “Smell Gas, Act Fast” campaign—which urges people to vacate an affected area immediately and call us if they suspect a gas leak.
We will place methane detectors and alarms in dozens of homes in 2017 to test the detectors’ effectiveness in alerting residents to natural gas leaks. We believe natural gas alarms will help avoid tragedies and save lives.
We’ve also taken steps to ensure the safe, reliable operation of our gas delivery system: The number of surveys of our distribution mains has increased from once a year to once a month. We’ve also enhanced our coordination with the New York City and Westchester County fire departments when it comes to responding to gas leak calls.
Delivering safe, reliable energy and protecting the environment are always our top concerns. We work with outside experts to quantify methane emissions and provide greater transparency on gas leak monitoring and repair. The goals are to spot potential problems sooner and to better protect the public.
We provide steam service for approximately 2.5 million people in Manhattan through an underground network of pipes. By generating steam primarily through co-generation, we provide efficient production and reduce emissions that would otherwise be generated by localized boilers and equipment. We focus on identifying ways to lower costs to customers, maintain high reliability, improve resiliency, and protect the environment. In 2015, we continued to achieve safe and efficient operations while serving our customers’ needs—maintaining an overall reliability rate of 99.98 percent and meeting a peak demand of nine million pounds on February 20.
We also worked with ULC Robotics to create a robot named SMART (Steam Mains And Inspection Robot Technology) to inspect steam mains (pipes) of at least eight inches in diameter. SMART was machined out of a block of brass and designed to pull a 500-foot tether. The tether supplies chilled air to keep the onboard electronics within their operating temperature limits while allowing the user to remotely control the robot. SMART is designed to withstand heat inside a pipe, operating at a maximum temperature of 350 degrees. It is outfitted with sensors for wall thickness measurements and multiple cameras in the front and back for visual inspection and navigation. The first of its kind, SMART is being developed to allow us to troubleshoot and proactively make repairs, eliminating potential leaks and service disruptions to our customers while increasing system reliability.