In this developed, civilized, picture-perfect world that we live in, it’s easy enough to forget that creating electricity is, at its core, a dangerous job. From Three Mile Island to Fukushima, disaster can strike when we least expect it. This past week, tragedy hit home at Edison International (NYSE:EIX) when an explosion resulted in the death of a Southern California Edison (SCE) lineman.
Every utility has strictly regulated safety standards, but power problems might be more common than you think. A company that keeps its employees safe is a better company. Let’s take a look at a few of the most recent utility issues to see whether there are lessons to be learned.
Last Thursday, distribution lineman Jose “Raul” Ros was working in an underground electrical vault at a SCE Menifee substation when an electrical explosion and fire left him dead and three others injured. Ros had worked at Edison for 11 years. “We are deeply saddened by today’s tragic event and we extend our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Ros’ family,” said SCE President Ron Litzinger in a statement.
Since the first announcement, the other three employees have been released from the hospital and a memorial fund has been set up in Ros’ honor, to which Edison International made the first donation of $25,000.
Southern stays silent
Unfortunately, Edison International (NYSE:EIX) isn’t alone. On April 4, a routine maintenance outage went awry when an explosion occurred at The Southern Company (NYSE:SO)‘s Georgia coal-fired Plant Bowen. In its release, The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) noted that “no serious injuries have been reported” and that the explosion presented no danger to the community.
In the last three weeks, the company has remained silent on the subject. An email correspondence with the investor relations office noted that The Southern Company (NYSE:SO) will “release more details after our investigation is complete and thoroughly vetted,” but the company’s Q1 earnings have come and gone with no mention of Plant Bowen. The facility accounts for 7.3% of the utility’s overall generation capacity and, with the limited information available, seems to remain offline.
Exelon’s precautions kick in
Most recently, Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC) took its nuclear Clinton power station offline on Friday after observing low hydraulic pressure on one of the unit’s main turbines. The station first came on line in 1987 and generates just over 1,000 net MW.
Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC) relies on regulation- and safety-heavy nuclear for 55% of its generation capacity, and works daily with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to ensure strict oversight.