Pepco defends its response in wake of recent storm

Allison Shelley/Getty Images - A Pepco employee works to stabilize power lines damaged in a massive storm that swept through the region earlire this summer.

Steven Silverman’s July 8 commentary (“Pepco’s dark and stormy problems”) raises valid concerns. What is not valid is the implication that Pepco is unresponsive to those concerns and failed in its response to the catastrophic storm that tore a 700-mile path between the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, leaving 34 people dead and nearly four million people without power. We have been proactive in our efforts to reduce the potential for outages, their frequency and duration, not just for business customers, but for all customers — and were quick to respond to the June 29 derecho.

Our efforts to improve reliability began in September 2010 — part of a five-year, $910 million plan. We have made important but rarely reported gains. Customers served by upgraded power lines experienced a 39 percent reduction in the average number of outages during regular service. When outages occurred, the duration was shorter, declining by 56 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. We know we have to keep making progress, so our work continues.

Will those improvements allow all customers to be restored within 24 to 48 hours as some have suggested would be reasonable? Absolutely not. Extreme weather is precisely that — extreme. So is the damage that results.

We responded with great force. We had 3,000 crew members and other personnel working around the clock to restore power to 443,000 customers. More than 300,000 man hours were logged by crews alone — dealing with 4,000 reports of downed wires.

Even with all of the damage, we reached our global estimated restoration time 48 hours earlier than first predicted, and restored power to everyone by the early morning hours of Sunday, July 8, when FEMA reported there were still more than 100,000 customers without power in nearby states also hit by the storm.

We hope Mr. Silverman and others will better understand the restoration process and Pepco’s commitment to reliability. We are stronger and more reliable — but no overhead system can withstand the force of a storm of the magnitude of last week’s derecho.

Thomas H. Graham

President, Pepco

 
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