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What are the most – and least – reliable electric utilities?

3 min read
For business

Updated: 5/9/19

Regardless of where you live, a utility company delivers electricity to your house. In most states, utilities also generate it. In states with energy deregulation, that electricity can come from competitive retail suppliers. Either way, you can’t run your computers, televisions, lights and more without reliable power from a utility. So which utilities are the best – and worst – at keeping the lights turned on?

To help energy customers understand their energy services inside and out; Choose Energy pored through data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to put together lists of the most and least reliable utilities in the United States*.

5 Most Reliable Utilities

Here are the utilities that had the shortest outage durations per customer in 2017, both including and excluding what the EIA calls Major Event Days or MEDs (caused by extreme weather and other factors):

Let’s break down these numbers:

First, all five of these top utility companies’ 2017 average outage durations fell far below the national average, which was roughly 2.3 hours. Our winner for reliability, based on outage duration and outage frequency, is awarded to Arizona’s Tucson Electric Power Company, with an average time of only 7 minutes per customer in 2017 (excluding any MEDs, such as tornados, heat waves or snow storms). Tucson Electric Power Co. customers experienced an average outage frequency of 0.05. However, the utility came in third for outage duration including MEDs.

Arizona’s Salt River Project, with a low outage time of about 48 minutes, was the most reliable utility when considering outage duration including MEDs. Salt River Project’s low MED outage duration illustrates the utility’s excellent preparedness and response rate to natural or man-made disasters affecting its customers.

5 Least Reliable Utilities

To find the nation’s least reliable utilities, we not only looked at high average outage duration but also the amount of times the average customer experienced an outage in 2017. These utilities failed both tests, making them our five least reliable utilities in the nation:

Florida Power and Light Co. had an average outage duration of just 59 minutes in 2017. However, factoring in MEDs brings the utility’s average outage duration to more than 66 hours, which is almost 3 days. Such a drastic difference in FP&L’s MED outage duration is most likely due to the severe 2017 hurricane season Florida underwent.

In addition to outage duration, Choose Energy compared the average number of outages that the utility customers experienced in 2017. Most of the least reliable utilities’ customers experienced more than two outages.

Central Maine Power Co. had the highest outage frequency with and without MEDs; customers suffered, on average, 2.7 outages in 2017. For comparison, customers of Tucson Electric Power Co. – the most reliable U.S. utility – averaged just 0.1 outages in the same year.

Deregulated Market Standouts

Some of the biggest deregulated energy markets in the U.S. are found in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Texas. In these states, deregulated energy customers rely on their utilities for safe and reliable power delivery, even though they’ve purchased electricity from competitive suppliers. Here are the top utilities in each of those states based on average outage duration and number of outages per year:

* Choose Energy only compared utility companies with a minimum of 500,000 United States customers.

Gabriella is a North Carolina-based writer covering topics related to the energy industry and the environment. A Sunshine State native, Gabriella graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in English.