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LCEC strives to provide reliable, competitive electric services

By DENISE VIDAL - | Oct 20, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Denise Vidal

LCEC is extremely proud and honored to serve the electric needs of the residents and businesses on Sanibel and Captiva Islands for 80 years. We look forward to many years to come. We know that power outages are frustrating. During this unprecedented pandemic a loss of power can be even more concerning, and we completely understand why. The mission of LCEC centers around our commitment to providing reliable and competitive electric services and a quality customer experience. We take this mission seriously, and strive to continually improve our practices to keep this promise to you.

When outages occur, LCEC’s first priority is safety and minimizing the length of the outage. Once an outage is resolved, we are typically able to identify the high-level cause such as vegetation, an object in the line, or a fault on the system. During an outage, customers are able to view the LCEC outage map and report an outage through our contact center at 239-656-2300, or in our bill pay and customer service tool, SmartHub, which can be accessed through www.lcec.net or through the mobile app on your Smartphone. The outage map can help you determine if you are part of an individual outage or a larger-scale outage. Although we know a map doesn’t ease the burden of an outage, our hope is that it provides some insight into the situation and confidence that the LCEC automated system is working, and we are aware of the outage and responding accordingly.

You may wonder why LCEC doesn’t do everything remotely in today’s high-tech world. Automation is not as widespread on electric networks as you might think because of safety concerns. While LCEC can re-energize a power line remotely, if whatever caused the fault is not cleared, it could cause a fire or cause harm to LCEC linemen or others working in the area. Patrolling the lines and conducting visual inspections are a critical component of our business from a safety perspective. LCEC has advanced automation capabilities in our network in addition to automated meters which were installed in 2003. We rely on technology every day, and the behind-the-scenes benefits are one of the ways we have been able to improve reliability substantially over the years.

Although your barrier islands are just 12 miles long, LCEC has multiple maintenance plans for your electric infrastructure, one of which focuses solely on vegetation maintenance. Because we understand that your islands have plentiful foliage and power outages are most often due to vegetation, trimming on Sanibel happens every 2-3 years versus 3-5 years like most of the LCEC service territory. In fact, tree trimming on the island is currently underway.

In addition to vegetation management, LCEC invests millions annually on electric system maintenance, inspection, upgrades, and storm hardening. On Sanibel and Captiva, those activities are being accelerated to mitigate outage risk. You may have seen the LCEC team multiple times this year conducting infrared hot spot testing, battery testing on automated network components, tree trimming, and utility pole inspections and replacements. These activities reduce and prevent outages and harden the network against the Southwest Florida storms and system failures. Two of the most recent outages on Sanibel were the result of vegetation and woodpecker damage and although incidents such as these are difficult to avoid completely, LCEC is committed to working hard to reduce the risk.

You will be happy to know that we have replaced and upgraded many facilities over the past few years including lines along Sanibel-Captiva Road, Palm Ridge, and Tarpon Bay. Underground feeders on West Gulf Drive were rebuilt. Portions of the same electric circuit on Donax Street, Middle Gulf Drive, and East Gulf Drive were also addressed. Wire was upgraded in multiple locations and poles have been replaced as identified through ongoing inspections.

Just as we are working diligently to provide reliable electricity during this unprecedented time and always, LCEC has worked around-the-clock following emergency situations such as hurricanes. Our dedicated LCEC linemen have battled the elements to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. LCEC bucket trucks are parked at The Bait Box after hours to allow for quicker restoration in a power outage and a dedicated crew is assigned to Sanibel and Captiva to ensure consistent service.

As we continue to improve the way we operate, we encourage you to register for SmartHub. This allows you to reach us anytime — day, night, holiday. If you prefer to call us at 239-656-2300, our customer care agents are there to help. In fact, inbound calls at LCEC are answered on at an average speed of 40 seconds which beats the industry average of 52.9 seconds. We are also proud to share that year-to-date, the percentage of customer calls answered within 30 seconds is 77.8 percent. We also have a user-friendly IVR which is designed to answer when we cannot. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Delivering reliable electric and quality service at competitive rates is the sole reason we are in business. The LCEC team is dedicated to meeting your power needs.

We understand the business and personal implications caused by an outage, and thank you for your continued patience and faith in us. We work 24/7/365 to keep your lights on, and will continue to do so.

We strive to make you proud to be an LCEC customer, and thank you for allowing us the privilege of being your electric cooperative for 80 years now, and look forward to 80 more.

Denise Vidal is executive vice president and chief executive officer of LCEC.