Energy & Environment

An ‘Epidemic’ Of Power Outages Persists In Fast-Growing Suburb

CenterPoint Energy is pledging to spend a million dollars to fix a persistent power outage problem in one, Fort Bend County community.

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/162858/162857" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X
Electrician Nathan Lazarine says he stays busy fixing appliances and HVAC systems in Sienna Plantation
Electrician Nathan Lazarine says he stays busy fixing appliances and HVAC systems in Sienna Plantation

The sound of an air conditioner is what a homeowner wants to hear on a day when the high was expected to be near 100. But in Sienna Plantation, a 10,000 thousand acre master planned community in Fort Bend County, electrician Nathan Lazarine says those a/c compressors go silent....unusually often.

"Personally, even the unit at my house, I've had the compressor go out twice in the past two years mostly because of power outages. It's been a real epidemic out here," said Lazarine.

An epidemic of power outages. They're often very brief. In the electricity industry, they're called flickers and are a problem in other states including Florida. The on-and-off can play havoc with circuit boards and other electronic and mechanical components.

CenterPoint Energy says it will spend $1 millon upgrading electricity lines in Sienna Plantation
CenterPoint Energy says it will spend $1 millon upgrading electricity lines in Sienna Plantation

"It screws up my ability to earn a living and provide for my family period," said Christie Lawler, a sales rep who works out her home.

Since last year, people like her complained so much that the Public Utility Commission of Texas took action. In an agreement with the commission finalized last month, CenterPoint pledged to spend a million dollars this year to "harden" electrical lines to better protect them from lightning strikes and from damage done by animals like squirrels. CenterPoint also said it would install more sophisticated switching devices. And that it would do more to cut back trees and vines, including using drones to look for trouble-spots.

Photo by CenterPoint Energy showing vines on utility pole in Sienna Plantation
Photo by CenterPoint Energy showing vines on utility pole in Sienna Plantation

But some residents say they doubt that'll help stop the flickers. Christie Lawler says she suspects the grid just can't handle the growth: "More and more homes are going in. We're getting another school."

The utility commission has threatened that if things don't improve, it'll level penalties against CenterPoint. Nationally, one industry report in 2013 found power outages were on the rise and called attention to an aging electrical grid.

Share