2020 Impact Awards: Distribution Field Services, Power Enterprise

Award: Organizational Excellence

Distribution Field Services Team Members: Jesse D. Blas, David Condon, Hieu X. Doan, Ryan Dunbar, Jered T. Huntington 

Nominator: Ramon Z. Abueg

The Utility Field Services Division (UFS) has shown commitment to the City’s goals of providing safe and reliable customer service to the City’s customers.  This includes electric distribution and streetlighting services with the support of the Maintenance Planning group.  Electric Distribution Services has a team of journey level Transmission and Distribution line workers that work high voltage systems. The team comprises one crew that performs the inspection, maintenance, operations, repairs and new construction work to ensure that the City provides safe and reliable services.  In addition, the crew provides standby services during off hours to respond to emergencies in case of a power outage.  UFS is dedicated to delivering the City’s values and goals in their day-to-day work.  This was clearly demonstrated in their response to a very challenging power outage at Treasure Island (TI) and Yerba Buena Island (YBI).

On November 5, 2019 at approximately 2 pm, a power outage occurred at TI and YBI. UFS responded to evaluate the situation and patrolled the lines to visually inspect them.  Initial evaluation showed that an overhead wire had failed. UFS repaired the wire and attempted to restore the power, but the circuit breaker opened the lines again, indicating a short circuit elsewhere in the system. UFS also identified a major problem at the Port of Oakland’s (Port) electrical substation that needed immediate attention.

The electric wires from the Port comprises 4.2 miles of overhead wires, underground cables and submarine cables directly buried under the San Francisco Bay.  Identifying the location of the short circuit was a challenge for several reasons:  no reports had been received of an underground event, such as a loud noise, indicating a problem; there were no monitoring devices to help locate the problem; and accessing the underground lines required special equipment to open the vaults.  Once UFS recognized that the outage would take several hours to restore, UFS connected the islands to the power generators so that residents and businesses would continue to have power through the evening hours. 

The generators had only eight hours of fuel supply.  While continuing to locate the problem, UFS was also identifying fuel vendors to provide emergency fuel for the generators.  The situation became more challenging, as fuel for the generators would not be available until the next morning, and UFS had not yet located the cause of the outage.  By this time, the UFS crew had been at work for over 18 hours.  UFS has only one high voltage crew.  They could only take short breaks, working around the clock to ensure that customers would have their permanent power restored as soon as possible.

After three days of continuous work, UFS located the problem by opening the electrical vaults and testing every circuit underground.  An underground high voltage cable (25,000 volts) cable was damaged; it needed to be removed and replaced. Because Power Enterprise does not own the power system, the cable and required accessories to make the repairs were not available.  UFS had to call upon neighboring utilities to supply the cable and required accessories, such as splicing kits, to reconnect the cables.  A neighboring utility was able to provide the cable and accessories needed to make the repairs.  However, their warehouse where the materials were stocked was only open until 4 pm on Friday and closed over the weekend.  The crew safely secured the jobsite and rushed to the warehouse to ensure that the obtainment of materials would not be delayed to after the weekend.

The power outage situation became increasingly challenging.  The emergency generator at TI failed that evening, leaving the island again without power. UFS had to stop working on the cable to transfer the electricity to the residents and critical loads at TI to the YBI emergency generator.  This required special switching procedures to ensure that the YBI generator did not get overloaded.  UFS also started troubleshooting the TI generator and installed a smaller generator at the Job Corps dorms.

In addition to the cable being damaged, the conduits had collapsed.  The crew was unable to remove the damaged cable and install the new cable.  To replace the cables and conduits, UFS needed heavy excavation equipment and operator.  Department of Public Works provided the equipment and operator on short notice.  The circuit had three power cables for the three-phase power circuit; each cable required several terminations and splices to reconnect.  Each splice and termination would take about two hours to complete.  Recognizing this, UFS requested assistance from Modesto Irrigation District to assist in completing the work.  Another crew was requested from Hetch Hetchy Water Department.

While the cable was being repaired, UFS was also evaluating what caused the TI generator to fail.  The filters were clogged and needed repair.

On November 10th, five days after the outage began, cable repairs were finished, and normal power was restored to the islands.  The generator repair was completed and ready to provide backup power as needed.  UFS arranged for an emergency fuel provider for the generators, in case there is a future need to operate them for a long period of time.

Employees that supported the power restoration are Jered Huntington, Hieu Doan, Ryan Dunbar, Jesse Blas, and David Condon.  They showed dedication to customer service, demonstrated teamwork internally and externally, and worked safely to resolve the emergency power outages.  This small crew worked continuously for five days with minimum breaks and limited resources to deliver power to customers at the islands.This is just one example of what this team does for the customers of the City.  The same crew connects new services, restores power outages, and provides standby services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to deliver excellent customer service.