BPU Investigating Utilities After Isaias – Good First Step
Today, the NJ Board of Public Utilities said that it will conduct a post-mortem investigation into power companies’ storm response. This comes after large public outcry because of the 1.4 million customers who were in the dark after Tropical Storm Isaias. Some people didn’t have power until over a week after the storm.
“We’re glad that President Fiordaliso said that the BPU is holding an investigation about power outages from Tropical Storm Isaias. How the utilities handled the outages is outrageous. They left 1.4 million people in the dark after Isaias, some for over a week. BPU needs to investigate why it happened and what procedures need to be changed. Something like this shouldn’t have happened, and we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is even more important because ratepayers spent over $4 billion on resiliency projects after Sandy. It is good that BPU is investigating, but they need to open a docket against PSE&G, JCP&L, and Atlantic City Electric and hold public hearings.”
Utility companies make more money fixing the lines than redoing it underground where it would be safer. They receive a 14% return on emergency repairs and are able to charge overtime. They also get a 12% return on so-called resiliency projects. At one point, JCP&L wanted to spend $110 million on a massive transmission line they didn’t need; a project the court just struck down.
“We want to get to 100% renewable, and people have 21st-century homes with ultra-modern appliances. Yet we have a grid that goes back to the 19th century. It’s like having a Tesla, but the only way to move it out of your garage is with a horse. Instead of building big power lines everywhere, we should be investing in better technology. This includes energy efficiency, microgrids, distributed generation, and renewable energy like solar. Microgrids especially help protect us against blackouts,” said Tittel. “We also need to make updates to the grid so the next time a storm comes, we can use stored energy to prevent power outages. Battery storage and flywheel systems can store renewable energy at all times, like at night or when the wind isn’t blowing”
After Superstorm Sandy, JCP&L received close to $400 million to upgrade their lines against black-outs but evidently, this hasn’t worked. At one point, JCP&L wanted to spend $110 million on a massive transmission line they didn’t need; a project the court just struck down. PSEG spent $1.2 billion for their Energy Strong project but we’re not any stronger.
“We are glad that BPU is investigating the utilities. This power outage has severely impacted productivity for people working from home and businesses struggling to stay open during the pandemic. Almost 1.4 million people lost power on Tuesday. This shows the state’s failure to protect New Jersey from severe weather and update our grid. Part of the problem is that utilities make more money to put the power lines back up rather than putting them underground,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We need to change how we do business with utilities to protect our grid. This investigation is a step in the right direction, but BPU needs to open a docket and hold full public hearings to get to the bottom of this.”