Did your power flicker? That momentary outage could be a sign that you avoided a lengthy outage

These “momentary outages” feel like a weakness in electric service reliability, but they’re actually a strength

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Customer Care Smart Energy Innovation Agenda

The next time your power blips off and on, remember that the blinking clock on your microwave forfeited its accuracy to save the food in your refrigerator.

These “momentary outages” feel like a weakness in electric service reliability, but they’re actually a strength. Automated equipment installed across the BGE overhead electric system is designed to allow momentary outages to help prevent longer, sustained interruptions to your electricity.

Here’s a common example of how it works:

A tree branch contacts power lines, causing a fault. Automated equipment senses the fault and shuts off power to the affected lines—but only for a few seconds. During that time the branch loses contact with the lines. Moments later, the same equipment automatically checks if the fault is still present and restores power if possible. No branch contact, no fault, no prolonged outage.

Some automated equipment will open and “reclose” the circuit multiple times to give temporary faults a longer window to clear. But this window is still very brief—roughly a minute. Customers experience a handful of short outages in a row, then, if the fault clears, their power stays on. This process may repeat (several times) in strong windstorms or other disruptive weather events because vegetation and other debris frequently contact power lines.

What happens if the fault doesn’t clear?

Back to the tree branch example: if a small branch falls onto power lines and stays there, additional equipment immediately auto-switches the flow of electricity away from the fault to restore service to as many customers as possible (dependent on circuit design). This restoration automation process further ensures fewer customers experience outages of any significant length.

The alternative is costly, inefficient, and far more disruptive for customers. Reclosing equipment has been ubiquitous across the BGE overhead electric system for decades. Without it, even temporary faults—the small tree branch—would require BGE to dispatch a crew in a truck to investigate and remedy any issues. Customers whose service depended on the affected equipment would be without power in the interim.

Data reflects how much has changed and the benefits of investing in new technology.

In 2019, BGE’s 3,379 automated reclosers collectively prevented nearly 1.64 million service interruptions for customers. Overall, BGE customers experienced the second-best service reliability in company history in 2019, as measured by average frequency of outages and average outage duration. Both numbers have decreased substantially over the past decade.

So when you have to reset the microwave’s clock, this minor inconvenience may have been caused by a system designed to prevent a much longer disruption.

Visit bge.com for information on how to report an outage.