Electric grid problems to be addressed in 2023 by Duquesne; information for homeowners

Summary of Call with Duquesne Light

January 4, 2023       6-7pm EST

Duquesne Light Representatives:

  • Paul Svoboda, External and Governmental Affairs
  • Wesley Terek, Senior Manager, System Planning Group

City Council Representation

  • Erika Strassburger, District 8 Councilperson
  • DaVonn Brown, Staff

42 Homeowners on Zoom

Overview of Presentation by Wesley Terek

Investigation into the problem

  • Starting in June 2022, DLC initiated their investigation into the problem in response to customer complaints of low power.
  • DLC monitored the voltage over a two-month period, focusing initially on the distribution system running between Lytton and Tennyson.
  • Preliminary report indicated that cables and transformers serving this area were overloaded.
  • At the end of the monitoring period, upgrades were recommended.
  • In August 2022, the issue was escalated to the system planning group – this is the group that plans major infrastructure projects.
  • At that time, a broader investigation was initiated where voltage was monitored for all residences in the community. This was accomplished using smart meter data during a roughly 1 year period from Summer of 2021 – August of 2022.
  • The results of that investigation revealed that there is excess load/demand on the electrical networks serving the neighborhood.
  • The Schenley Farms infrastructure is over 75 years old and was not designed to handle the power demands of modern life.
  • Bottom line: High load + older network = undervoltage.
  • Problem will only get worse without significant upgrades to the network.

Schenley Farms Power Grid—2023

Transformers converting 4kV line (not shown) to power distributed to our homes (240/120 V)


Colored lines are the location of subterranean service lines from the transformer to our individual homes.  Currently running between Parkman/Lytton and along Bigelow (yellow), between Lytton/Tennyson and along Bigelow (pink), between Tennyson/Bigelow and along Bigelow (blue), and along Parkman and south between Tennyson/Bigelow and south behind Bigelow homes (green).  The further away the home is from the transformer feed, the more likely folks are/will experience low power.


Proposed Solutions

  • In October 2022, DLC Distribution Engineering Design group was consulted to scope permanent solutions.
  • Recommended solutions: (1) Add additional transformers; and (2) Reconfigure the lines connecting the transformers to the residences in order to reduce the number of customers being served by each transformer (i.e., to better balance the loading). Both need to happen to solve the problem.  Location of additional transformers TBD.
  • A number of factors limit DLC’s design options: (1) subterranean nature of the distribution lines; (2) most of the distribution lines connect at the back of the house; (3) conduit carrying these lines is full and cannot be expanded; and (4) the “vaults” housing the existing transformers cannot be refitted for larger or additional transformers.
  • Existing distribution lines could be replaced in their current locations, but this would involve significant excavation. DLC would like to minimize disruptions on our properties.
  • Low-impact options are being considered. For example, “horizontal boring” without the need for major excavation.
  • Finding the best solution will involve working directly with the neighborhood.

Solution Implementation: What to Expect.

  • Once a workable solution is in place, DLC will be in communication with residents concerning access and timelines.
  • Upgrades will be installed as quickly as possible.
  • Constraints that may impact timelines: (1) permitting and access agreements; (2) supply chain issues

Q & A Summary (curated)

Q: Can volage be reliably monitored at an outlet?

A: DLC commented that there are many things that can affect voltage inside homes.  They could not provide a comment without evaluating the situation inside the home.

Q: What should our voltage levels ideally be?

A: DLC should deliver between 114-126v at the meter.

Q: When can expect to see a DLC presence in neighborhood?

A: The first feet on the ground will be 811 doing utility marking.  Best estimate is in the next few months.

Q: Is there anything we can do to help mitigate the problem in the interim?

A: Peak usage is between 3pm and 8pm.  To the extent possible, try to plan activities with high electricity consumption outside of the window (e.g., set dishwasher with 4-hour delay to run in middle of the night).

Q: Could the low voltage be due to changes or activities taking place at Pitt?

A: There is no data available to suggest this.

Q: Is this possibly a supply issue?

A: This is highly unlikely because some neighboring buildings share the same primary 4 kilovolt line as Schenley Farms and they have not seen any problems.  The problem seems to stem from our neighborhood’s 120/240v secondary local distribution system. Pitt/UPMC does have their own sub-stations and a new residential sub-station was placed in “the Hollow”.

Q: Will the work be extended to include Schenley Farms properties on center avenue?

A: DLC indicated that they will now start looking at including these properties as well in their plans.

Q: Is the low-voltage dangerous?

A: It is not possible to comment on the specific conditions inside a customer’s home.  DLC’s responsibility is to being power to the meter.  As far as the portion they control, DLC does not consider the situation dangerous at this time.  NOTE: it was made clear later in the call that the low voltage may cause appliances and electronic devices to not work properly leading to failures.

Q: If hardscape excavations are required, is DLC committed to replacement that matches the original design and aesthetic (exposed aggregate sidewalks for example)?

A: Yes.  DLC typically does like-for-like replacement.

Q: Do you recommend homeowners invest in voltage stabilizers?

A: DLC recommends that interested homeowner’s consult with a qualified electrician for in-home solutions.

Q: Could we use this opportunity to consider up-grading the neighborhood street lights to conform with those in other areas of the Oakland Historic District?

A: The City owns the streetlights.  Currently, there is no funding source to support such an upgrade.  DLC does have a subsidiary that could service an upgrade, but this would need to go through City channels.  Councilperson Strassburger made note of this request and agreed to look into this possibility.

5th Annual “Exploring Our Roots” Lecture/Social evening : OCTOBER 13, 2022



Each Autumn SFCA sponsors a fun and interesting evening ….  a history expert sharing info about the origins and adventures of our unique Historical Neighborhood of Schenley Farms.

Details for 2022:

When:   Thursday, October 13, 2022    7:00 p.m.

Where:  Latin American Cultural Center,    4338 Bigelow Blvd

Who:    Robert (Bob) Jucha,PhD      Degree in American Studies from GWU, book editor, teacher of Pgh and American Architecture, longtime docent with Pgh History and Landmarks Foundation

Topic:  Oakland’s City Beautiful Movement stands out when compared to other cities’ efforts


Evening is sponsored by SFCA, but open to anyone interested in Pgh history and heritage !!


Electric Scooters pose new concerns – safety, property abandonment



Several neighbors have noted and reported that the new SPIN electric scooters have been found inappropriately left on sidewalks in the neighborhood.   See photos (submitted by S. Weinberg).

There have also been concerns of zipping riders weaving along Bigelow, posing new challenges for drivers, pedestrians and bikers.

On 9/14/21, the Post Gazette had an oped piece about the issue.   Pgh City Council will be having hearings soon.


Just a few pertinent points:

  • City entered pilot program with scooter company SPIN on July 9, allowing 900 electric scooters to be available.   Complaints quickly came in.
  • Some of the issues:    underage use, inappropriate use on roads, safety issues,  abandonment of property.
  • Anyone who has a complaint can call either to City ( 311 or MyBurgh app), or directly to company Spin ( support@spin.pm or 1-888-249-9698.)    Each scooter has a large ID # and  this should be part of report.

This issue will take a little more time and thought, but reports of concerns are helpful to city council staff, who are working on appropriate legislation.



Bates Street Utility work 6/15 – 6/23

Route 885 Bates Street Utility Pole Work Begins Monday in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA – PennDOT District 11 is announcing utility pole work on Route 885 (Bates Street) in the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County will begin Monday, June 15 weather permitting.

Single-lane restrictions will occur on Bates Street between Hodges Street and the Boulevard of the Allies weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday, June 26. Crews from Sargent Electric will conduct the utility pole work.

PennDOT is not involved in this work and is providing this information as a public service announcement only. For further information contact Marten Coulter at 412-480-4482.
Motorists can check conditions on more than 40,000 roadway miles, including color-coded winter conditions on 2,900 miles, by visiting http://www.511PA.com. 511PA, which is free and available 24 hours a day, provides traffic delay warnings, weather forecasts, traffic speed information, and access to more than 950 traffic cameras.
511PA is also available through a smartphone application for iPhone and Android devices, by calling 5-1-1, or by following regional twitter alerts accessible on the 511PA website.
MEDIA CONTACT: Steve Cowan, 412-429-5010

Fundraiser with 2 great goals … help local restaurants hurt by the pandemic, help people who need food

District 8 of Pgh City (under leadership of Erika Strassburger and her staff) have worked on a terrific idea with two great benefits !!!to YOU CAN DONATE TO A 412 FOOD RESCUE EFFORT …. pay for restaurant-prepared food which is then given to those who are food insecure. IT’S TWO GOOD DEEDS IN ONE !!!!!

The official statement:

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with 412 Food Rescue to have a handful of restaurants in District 8 participate in their Community Takeout Program.

The Community Takeout program is powered by donations. Every $10 contribution goes directly to purchasing a meal from a local restaurant that will then be delivered to community members who are food insecure.

Click here (or copy/paste in browser) :

District 8 Community Takeout

to donate to the District 8’s Community Takeout page and support local restaurants while also giving a meal to someone in need.”

Schenley Farm Walkers raising funds for CHP

Multiple doctors living in SF work with the Liver Transplantation Program at Children’s Hospital of Pgh. Thus a ‘team’ of virtual walkers participated in the annual fundraiser Walk for Children. Afterwards a fun celebratory breakfast was hosted at the Bond/Frame home. A lot of fun for a good cause !!

Brunch with a view after the CHP fundraiser walk 6.6.20

Brunch with a view after the CHP fundraiser walk 6.6.20

Teddy Bears and the Pandemic

The concept of a ‘Teddy Bear Hunt’ has been part of the response to the Covid threat in many countries, hoping to bring a smile to children whose lives have been disrupted. But adults also need smiles! A Schenley Farms family has brightened our world by arranging for a daily diorama on their lawn/porch of life with Teddy and Teddina. We are all grateful to Caddie and John for their efforts !!!


Bear displays boost smiles during Pandemic

During the Pandemic shutdowns, there has been a world wide movement to display stuffed animals and create ‘teddy bear hunts’ for children whose lives have been disrupted. Our local neighbor the Harpers have used their creativity and thoughtfulness to create a daily yard display featuring Teddy and Teddina. It is hard to pass their home without a smile!! Just one example: