Though a number of utility companies have already finished restoring power to their customers in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy—such as Pepco last night—they are now redeploying crews to the Northeast to join with other utilities from across the U.S. and Canada as part of the industry’s Mutual Assistance Program, which transcends state lines and service areas.
“We are in the midst of a great American story,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “This is a national response, and today we are still in action, flying crews in from the West Coast, Canada, and now companies that have restored power to their customers are lending a hand to their neighbors. We have utility companies sending crews, which make up the 65,000 line and transmission workers, tree resources, assessors, network personnel, and substation experts clearing the way for power. These folks, along with first responders and aid workers, are the unsung heroes.”
Over the past decade, industry spending to make the power grid more resilient and to update and reinforce local distribution and high-voltage transmission systems and technology has increased significantly. In fact, in 2012, the industry is projected to spend more than $94 billion on capital expenditures. However, no electric utility is storm proof, and no amount of infrastructure spending could have fully inoculated utilities against Sandy and her record-breaking storm surge.
More homes and businesses lost power as a result of Sandy than from any other storm in history. Approximately half of all affected customers have been restored, with 1.5 million brought back online in the last 24 hours. Restoring power to the millions of Americans still without electricity is the top priority for utility companies, the Obama Administration and the Department of Energy.
President Obama spoke to Secretary Chu, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, EEI’s Kuhn and representatives from utilities and Regional Mutual Assistance Groups from the White House situation room earlier this week about ways to remove roadblocks and red tape that hinder crews from quickly reaching areas most in need.
An interagency taskforce on power restoration, based out of the FEMA National Response Coordination Center, is facilitating this process. David Owens, EEI Executive Vice President of Operations, is working on-site with the team to identify specific steps and target additional resources that could be helpful to get power back on as quickly as possible.
Today, the military is airlifting some 636 tons of equipment to help with storm damage relief along the East Coast. Much of this equipment belongs to Southern California Edison; Air Force cargo aircraft are the fastest way for it to get where it is most needed.
“Hurricane Sandy is the biggest single task the utility industry has ever faced,” said Kuhn. “This has been a transformational response where we’re all working together in extraordinary partnership.”
- Photo - U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Pepco Region President Thomas H. Graham, and EEI President Tom Kuhn thank some of the crews who restored power after Sandy hit the East Coast.