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Watchdog initiates control action over DSO's failure to fix power outages

Power lines repair work in Saaremaa.
Power lines repair work in Saaremaa. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The Estonian Competition Authority has brought a control action against power distribution system operator Elektrilevi after supervision proceedings found numerous shortcomings in the process of repairing grid failures and crisis management.

Evelin Pärn-Lee, director of the Competition Authority, said that Elektrilevi is suffering from a shortage or repair crews.

"The situation is made worse by a worker shortage at the DSO's control center, which creates long call waiting times and further hampers the work of repair crews," she said.

Elektrilevi procures the control center service from another Eesti Energia subsidiary, Enefit Connect OÜ.

The DSO's capacity for detecting failures mainly in the low voltage network and some parts of the medium voltage network is subpar, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the start time of outages, meaning that the affected consumer's transmission fee reduction might not reflect the duration of the service disruption. It also means that power outages take longer to sort out, as well as inaccurate security of supply indicators that do not correspond to the actual situation.

The watchdog concludes that while Eletkrilevi has taken steps to expedite repair work and improved its crisis management processes since December of last year that saw extensive power outages in Saare County, the bottleneck of framework agreements lacking a crisis situation measures map, which makes it more difficult to manage repair crews in different regions, remains.

"The Competition Authority has determined that the outages in November and December have mainly been caused by Elektrilevi's shortcomings in maintaining power line corridors, with 28 percent of corridors in need of maintenance untended to. In those areas, strong winds or heavy snow cause branches or trees to fall on power lines which results in extensive outages," Pärn-Lee said.

The watchdog has issued a precept, obligating Elektrilevi to put together an activity plan for carrying out maintenance work in all affected line corridors. The company will need to come up with a plan for better managing the work of repair crews in crisis situations, as well as how to alleviate Elektrilevi OÜ's resource shortage.

The DSO has also been ordered to critically revise its policy of reducing transmission fees due to outages.

The Authority will carry out a separate audit of investments Elektrilevi has done or plans to do in order to comply with security of supply requirements.

Proceedings were launched in October to gauge whether Elektrilevi has improved its readiness to respond to power failures.

The Competition Authority exercises supervision over competition, electricity, natural gas, district heating, postal services, water and sewage, railroad, aviation and ports.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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