“Reliability is our corporate culture, the heart of our business.”
Ken Ksionek, General Manager
and CEO from 2004 - present
- Water Quality
- Customer Service
A Long-Term Commitment to Reliability and Quality
Although it was 1998 before OUC officially became known as “The Reliable One,” the commitment to providing the highest level of service to customers goes back to the early days of the company. The need for reliable service began at the turn of the 20th century when 28 streetlights were installed and located throughout Orlando. By 1903, 24-hour electric service was available, and Orlando was on its way to becoming a vibrant city. As the City grew, so did the need to control crime. Street lighting was crucial to maintaining public safety, thereby creating a need for reliable electric service.
Over the years, OUC has remained committed to investing in the technology and infrastructure to ensure a high level of electric reliability. During the 1950s, the utility took that commitment to the next level by investing in a new technology called a static shield wire. OUC was one of the first utilities in the state to use static shield wire to protect its distribution system against lightning strikes — a cause of frequent power outages. Although shield wire was
commonly used for this purpose in transmission lines, its application on distribution lines was limited.
OUC installed its first underground feeder lines in 1934 with funds from the federal government. These lines were predominantly used for commercial installation. “When I started work at OUC in 1949, the downtown area was almost completely served by underground electrical distribution,” recalled Assistant General Manager Lou Stone. “It is my understanding that the distribution cables were installed in duct work that had been constructed by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the early 1930s. The primary installation was constructed with cables that utilized lead covering on the outer surface. This was the standard at that time.” Stone went on to say that “underground construction for electrical distribution was just beginning to enter the market when I became Manager of Electric Operations in the latter half of the 1960s. It was a painful experience for both the industry and users like OUC.
The major problem was the development of insulation that would withstand the rigors of being underground for many years and the stresses associated with high-voltage electric energy. OUC’s electric distribution engineering division was always at the forefront of that development by being one of the leading users of new technology created by the industry. In some instances, it was necessary to replace existing facilities that had already been designed and constructed due to failure of some component.”
By the late 1970s, OUC had established a policy to underground all new construction, and by 2010, more than 60 percent of electric distribution lines were underground.
OUC remains at the forefront of technology and currently utilizes the industry-proven Crosslinked Polythylene (XLPE) and Ethylene Propylene Rubber (EPR) underground power cables. The utility will continue to seek more efficient insulations, while striving to keep costs under control.
Reliable, Efficient Power Plants
OUC’s commitment to reliability starts at its power plant facilities. From the world-class peaking gas turbines of the old Lake Highland Plant and the marvel of efficiency that was the Indian River Plant when it opened in 1960 to the modern powerhouse of the Stanton Energy Center, OUC has sought to build and maintain a clean, efficient and dependable generation fleet for its customers.
Maintaining a reliable fleet of generation that uses a diverse mix of fuel has saved OUC customers millions of dollars over the years. OUC power resource employees work 24/7 to ensure that plants are well-maintained and available when necessary. In fact, OUC has a long history of not only meeting, but exceeding industry standards for availability and forced outage time. SEC Units 1 and 2 have an equivalent availability rate of 87.88, which is the time the generating unit is capable of delivering at full capacity, compared to the national average of 82.88. In addition, a combined Equivalent Forced Outage Rate (EFOR) of 2 percent compared to the national average of around 8 percent saves OUC ratepayers by reducing the costs associated with unexpected outages like having to find replacement power.
These two base load units, which rarely get a chance to rest, help ensure that OUC has an ample supply of power — whether it’s the hottest day of summer or coldest winter night. The utility’s record reliability is due in large part to its trademark preventive and predictive maintenance schedule and a dedicated, well-trained workforce.
To identify potential weaknesses before problems arise, OUC utilizes state-of-the-art technologies such as vibration monitoring and analysis, thermography and Low Frequency Electromagnetic Technique electronic boiler tube mapping. Aside from the intricate inspection process, which includes preventive maintenance and repairs, OUC has traditionally chosen to fuel its boiler with a lower sulfur, higher quality coat that, in turn, lowers maintenance costs for SEC.
Credit also must be given to the OUC plant employees and the regular training they undergo to hone and expand their skills in order to keep up with the latest processes and techniques required to maintain a high-performing plant. OUC’s power plant engineers, operations, and maintenance personnel are dedicated, knowledgeable, and have the proven ability to rise to any challenge.
Since the first water works system began operation on March 18, 1887, the goal has been to provide citizens of Orlando with a safe, clean, reliable source of drinking water. Through the years, OUC has remained committed to providing the highest level of water quality and installing a reliable distribution system to facilitate growth.
From Lake Water to
the Floridan Aquifer
OUC originally drew its water from lakes. In the mid-’50s, it turned to the Floridan Aquifer for its water supply. Located a quarter of a mile or more below the earth’s surface, this vast underground reservoir contains some of the cleanest water in the nation. This water is as clean today as it was in the 1950s, according to tests conducted by OUC’s own sophisticated Water Quality Laboratory. Today this water is delivered through a highly reliable system of remotely controlled, interconnected water plants.
The Copper-Lighting Connection
Central Florida’s reputation as the lightning capital of the United States never became more evident after hundreds of “pinhole”-sized leaks began forming in copper pipes. During the 1980s and early ‘90s, OUC’s water department, led by laboratory superintendent Dick Dunham, determined that four factors led to accelerated pinhole leaks: lightning, water chemistry, copper plumbing grounding practices and low-quality plumbing workmanship. This was in the time period before the widespread use of PVC pipes. OUC was able to determine that better grounding of plumbing pipes could reduce the chance of a leak.
Safe Drinking Water
In 1995, OUC began Water Project 2000 — the most comprehensive water system upgrade in the utility’s history.
By treating the water with ozone, a strong but safe disinfectant, OUC dramatically reduced the use of chlorine in the water system and removed hydrogen sulfide, a naturally occurring compound that can create an unpleasant taste and odor in water. The result was tap water that tasted as good as bottled and it bore OUC’s name — H2OUC.
H2OUC was named the best drinking water in the state in 2003 by the Florida section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA). A panel of judges tested water from 10 utilities across the state, checking for taste, color, clarity and smell.
OUC’s state-of-the-art Water Quality Laboratory performs more than 20,000 chemical and bacteriological tests annually to ensure the quality and safety of OUC’s drinking water.
Customer Service: Always at the Heart of OUC
Customer service has been at the heart of OUC since the earliest days of the utility. While the technology has changed, the mission to provide convenient, reliable, friendly service remains the same today as it was in 1923.
Location, Location, Location
In 1936, convenience meant a central downtown location on the corner of Wall and North Main where customers could start or stop service and pay their electric and water bills before crossing the street to the Southern Bell Telephone Company to take care of their telephone account. With their postcard-sized bill stub in hand, customers would stand in line to speak to one of the OUC customer service representatives — who at that time were all men.
By the time OUC opened a new Administration Building in 1968, women had moved out from behind the cashier windows and joined the frontline ranks of customer service. The photo below
appeared in a special advertising section of the April 14, 1968 Orlando Sentinel showing a group of female representatives “smartly attired in their new uniforms and ready to extend their warm welcome to customers.” The Sentinel section also noted that customers could expect to receive “prompt, courteous and thorough attention . . . in person or by telephone” from OUC’s Customer Service Division.
Edna Heath (on left) who joined OUC on May 11, 1955 as a Clerk Typist and Relief Cashier celebrated the opening of three downtown offices. She started at the Wall Street office before moving to City Hall and then to the Administration Building at 500 S. Orange Avenue in 1968. She officially retired in 1990 as Superintendent of Revenue Collections, but came back to work for the company as a contractor. When customer service moved temporarily to the corner of Jefferson Street and Orange Avenue while the new energy and water efficient administration building was under construction, Ms. Edna, as she had become known, went with them. On November 11, 2008, she was a notable part of the celebration at the opening of Reliable Plaza. Just as she had for decades, Ms. Edna continued to serve customers until leaving OUC in 2010 and capping 55 years of dedicated service to The Reliable One.
Any Time, Anywhere
Over the decades, Customer Service would keep pace with technology — enhancing and automating phone service options while still maintaining a personal touch with local walk-in and call centers.
By 1994, convenience meant providing online service to customers with the launch of OUC.com. And as the popularity of the Internet increased, OUC added features that allowed customers to view their accounts, pay their bills, make service requests and even apply for a job at OUC via the website.
OUC.com was redesigned in 2000 to improve navigation and then translated into Spanish in 2007 to reach a growing segment of customers. The translated website further added to OUC’s existing
efforts to deliver critical information and service to Spanish-speaking customers through bilingual representatives and a fully translated interactive, automated phone system.
In 2009, OUC upgraded the website again to provide customers with easier access to key information and to lay the foundation to add to its online services for customers and vendors. In 2010, OUC added ReliablyGreen.com, a one-stop, 24-hour online shop for energy and water conservation information, rebates and programs. That year, the utility also issued a mobile version of OUC.com to reach the growing number of customers switching to smart or web-enabled phones to manage their accounts.