NJ LAWMAKERS GRILL UTILITIES POST-SANDY
By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
December 5, 2012
The Senate Budget committee held a hearing at the Statehouse today to examine how utility companies responded to Hurricane Sandy.
About three million customers in New Jersey lost power because of the storm, and it took almost two weeks to restore their electric service.
State Senator Kevin O’Toole questioned JCP&L President Donald Lynch about the company’s performance.
“You’re telling me with hindsight 20/20 that JCP&L dedicated enough time, and money, and resource to deal with the storm?”
Lynch was quick to respond.
“What I’m saying is we can always be better, but I am proud of the effort.”
Lynch said the 13 days to restore service was quicker than the amount of time it took after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Board of Public Utilities President Bob Hanna gives power companies a grade of F for how they communicated with customers.
“The assigned liaison, the area representative, the area manager whatever it’s called at the utilities simply didn’t have any information the about the estimated time of restoration or worse yet provided incorrect information.”
In some cases the utilities didn’t know which customers had their electricity restored.
The installation of smart meters would give them that data, but Ratepayer Advocate Stefanie Brand questions whether the billion dollars it would cost is worth it.
“If we have a billion dollars to spend, I’m not sure that’s the best way to spend it. I would rather see it spent on redundancy, on securing substations, and things like that.”
The BPU says power companies may need to upgrade their software systems to provide real-time information to customers about how long it will take to restore their service after any future outages.