power outages

Power Probe Launched as Leaders Question Eversource, UI on Isaias Response

Just days into the response to Tropical Storm Isaias, regulators are acting on concerns about the utility company responses.

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The body that regulates Connecticut's utility companies is opening an investigation into an alleged failure to anticipate and respond to Tropical Storm Isaias.

Connecticut woke up almost two days after the tropical storm with more than 600,000 customers without power. As of Thursday evening, a significant chunk of our state still in the dark.

Leaders in Vernon and surrounding east of the river towns say there should be a better response from electric companies charging some of the highest rates in the U.S.

“Eversource’s response to this tropical storm has been an epic failure,” Vernon Town Administrator Michael Purcaro said, pointing to both power restoration and communication issues.

Leaders from multiple towns east of the Connecticut River hold a news conference on power problems after Tropical Storm Isaias

That’s just the start for utilities Eversource and United Illuminating. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, known as PURA, said it will initiate an investigation of the power companies’ response to this tropical storm, saying there was “…clearly a misstep in response.”

“I’ve seen a lot of presentations from both utilities about the investments that they made in response to the 2011 storms, and I understand that their line is going to be this could have been worse if we hadn’t been investing in the system since then, and what I have to say back to them is, I’m not sure how this could have been much worse," PURA Chairman Marissa Gillett said.

Local and state leaders have questioned the run-up to this storm and the preparation, in particular how many crews were in the state, and how quickly they started working.  In the case of Boston-based Eversource, which has the majority of Connecticut’s customers and outages, it now has 700 crews here, up from 450 a day ago.

“We had what I think was a sufficient amount to start the process.  Once the event happens, we know the damage, then we go into action and we go into the mutual aid process and we bring more crews in," Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom explained.

Some have wondered if Eversource sent its crews to other potential damage hotspots and failed to redeploy fast enough, something the utility denied to NBC Connecticut the day after Isaias.

At the same time, in a recent report, PURA said that since 2013 Eversource and United Illuminating storm responses and restoration efforts have fallen within guidelines agreed to by regulators.  However, PURA also said it is still worth considering whether the restoration times and resource strategies set in those guidelines remain adequate. 

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