The targets are based on three indices that grade how frequently electrical systems go down, how long those systems are down, and how long customers themselves go without power.
West Virginia was one of only 12 states listed in a 2005 Edison Electric Institute study as having no targets for utility reliability as well as no requirement for power companies to report reliability data to the PSC.
The lack of reliability standards came to light in 2010, when the commission investigated widespread blackouts across West Virginia following a winter storm in mid-December 2009.
As a result of that investigation, the PSC in July 2011 rewrote its statewide rules to require new reliability targets. The commission is considering utility proposals for what those targets would look like.
The issue arose again this summer, after a series of late-June thunderstorms left thousands of state residents without power, some for a week or more.
Commissioners have been conducting a separate investigation of power outages related to those storms, and on Monday announced plans for a public hearing in that probe. The hearing was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 22 at the PSC headquarters in Charleston.
Setting electrical system reliability targets involves complicated formulas that include averaging power outage frequency and duration, and accounting for acceptable deviations from those averages.
The matter appeared headed for a contentious hearing, with PSC staff and consumer advocates saying utility proposals would allow more frequent and longer duration outages than the staff and consumer advocates believed were appropriate.
PSC staff had warned that utility proposals would simply require companies "to complete work which was neglected for the past 10 years."
"Very little, if any, improvement over the current issues causing outages will change and the infrastructure will continue to deteriorate," wrote Donald E. Walker, a technical analyst with the PSC staff's engineering division.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.