Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deeply Disappointed by Pepco's Responses at Hearing

I was deeply disappointed in the responses Pepco gave this morning in the first hearing the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) held in its investigation of the electricity provider’s reliability. Pepco officials were unprepared for many of the Commission’s questions, and it was clear the company does not have a verifiable plan for ensuring reliable service for the future. Today’s hearing proved that the PSC must establish accountability standards that will measure the performance of state utilities, including Pepco.

The PSC had ordered Pepco’s chief operating officer and the company’s senior officers responsible for system reliability and construction of maintenance, storm restoration and customer service and communications to appear at today’s hearing. The PSC is working on other aspects of its investigation, including a likely public hearing to be held within the next several weeks in Rockville.

I call upon the PSC to require a reliability plan from Pepco with accountability measures that Montgomery County residents can count on in the future. I also call upon the PSC to require Pepco to prepare an emergency communications and priorities plan. It is increasingly clear that Pepco's actions have been ad hoc, uncoordinated and undercapitalized.

The PSC announced on Aug. 12 that it would begin the investigation after morning and afternoon storms that day left more than 90,000 customers without power. On July 29, following a storm that left more than 200,000 residents without power, we at the Montgomery County Council unanimously sent a letter to the Public Service Commission asking for just such an investigation.

On Aug. 14, I spoke with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and told him that the continual series of outages year-round in Montgomery County has made establishing more reliable electric service from the utility a top priority.

We know that sudden winter and summer storms are not always predictable, but having a more reliable system established so we are not paralyzed by these events—and having a better system of response and communication with residents when they do occur—are things that must be addressed. After each of these events, we hear from Pepco about their challenges in delivering better service. Now it is time we hear a plan on what they are going to do to help prevent these problems.

Our letter of July 29 asking for an investigation cited many of the same concerns the PSC identified in deciding to act. In our letter, we wrote: “We are writing to ask the Commission to open an investigation into the reliability of electricity in Pepco’s Montgomery County’s service territory. Our residents and businesses have suffered an unacceptable number and duration of outages for many years, outages that have harmed public health, public safety and the County’s economy. As a distribution-only utility, the quality and reliability of Pepco’s service is exclusively within your authority. We ask you to invoke that authority to ensure our citizens of acceptable levels of reliability.”

1 comment:

Bowie Mike said...

This topic reminds me of what went on in the City of Bowie several years ago with BGE. As a result, the Bowie Electric Reliability Action Plan was established. It was a three year plan that included a citizens task force, a pilot program, system improvements, tree trimming and even funds for residents to replace trees lost to tree trimming. I think that there is general agreement that the plan worked, although you will find some people who disagree.

Areas of Bowie were hit hard during one of the recent storms, and a lot of people did lose power. My power was restored within 24 hours, and most people had power within 36 hours. I consider that storm to be an exceptional event, and I believe that we have greater reliability in Bowie that we used to.

I think it would be worthwhile for the people of Montgomery County and Pepco to take a look at the Bowie Electric Reliability Plan as a possible model. You can find more information via Google or another search engine.