When will power be restored? Pepco president answers power questions

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Thomas Graham
President, Pepco Region
Thursday, January 27, 2011; 3:00 PM

Thomas Graham, president of the Pepco region which includes Maryland and the District, was online Thursday, Jan. 27, at 3 p.m. ET to address the issue of when power will be restored as a result of yesterday's snowstorm.

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Thomas Graham: Hi, this is Tom Graham here with Pepco. I'm here to take any questions about our restoration efforts.

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Takoma Park, Md.: My power went out last night around 8:30pm, still was out this morning, and I'm at work today to stay warm. I've been watching the "outage map" on the Pepco web site and the number of outages in my zipcode (20912) is actually increasing! Why is this? And when do you anticipate crews restoring power to that neighborhood?

Thomas Graham: During a major event, additional outages sometimes occur as a result of the heavy snow on the lines. We have secured several additional crews from other utilities to support our restoration efforts. Although I cannot tell you exactly when your service will be restored, the extra crews will speed the process. At this time, we anticipate the vast majority of customers will be restored by 11:00 pm tomorrow night with the remaining customers restored over the weekend.

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Kensington, Md.: Could you address please what the logistical obstacles and financial cost of moving lines from poles to underground in (especially) older neighborhoods?

Thomas Graham: Good question. A recent study in the District indicated that undergrounding power lines would cost $3M to $11M per mile. Pepco has 14,000 miles of overhead lines. In our six point Reliability Enhancement Plan, we have committed resources to do select undergrounding. At this stage, the selection criteria has been established. The challenges include potential tree removal, lost revenue of businesses during construction, impact on streetscape, scheduling neighborhood outages and agreement by all neighbors on the project. I hope this is helpful.

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Forest Heights, Md.: I saw a lot of trees down during this storm and I was wondering if there has been any progress with allowing Pepco to trim trees on private property that may affect power lines?

Thomas Graham: Good observation but no real progress has been made in this area. During major events like today, tree contact with our wires continues to be a challenge. The key is being able to balance reliability needs with environmental concerns.

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NW Washington, D.C.: Thomas,

Do the new smart meters recently installed help Pepco locate outages, or hasn't that technology been implemented yet?

Thomas Graham: Actually we have just started the installation process in the District. The installation process will not be done until December 2011. In Md, we anticipate installation of all meters by December 2012. At this stage, it is simply a meter exchange. An early benefit is outage detection which will be of benefit to our customers.

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Potomac, Md.: According to the figures you give earlier, it would cost $100 billion to put all of Montgomery County's power lines under ground (7M per mile x 14,000 miles). How can that possibly be true?

Thomas Graham: The 14,000 mile figure was for our entire 640 sq/mi service in the District and Md.

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D.C.: The power in my neighborhood and the surrounding area is out...but we have underground lines...what could be the cause of this outtage?

Thomas Graham: This is a common question. Although the service in your neighborhood is underground, at some point the service may go overhead where it can be impacted by foul weather or animals. Another possibility is a fault may have occurred on the portion of your feeder that is underground.

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Rockville, Md.: I just heard a report that it might be Sunday before Montgomery County is restored? Comments?

Thomas Graham: We anticipate service to be restored to the vast majority of our customers by 11:00 pm Friday night with the remaining customers being restored over the weekend.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What's Pepco's policy on calling in mutual aid from other power companies? What's the threshold that results in Pepco receiving help from other power companies? Is there a standing agreement with companies who assist in major events like we're having today, or do those need to be negotiated each time?

Thomas Graham: Mutual assistance calls are made when the Company believes the existing workforce and contractor resources are not sufficient to restore service within a practical timeframe. The threshold is determined by the number of customers out of service and the nature of the cause. There are standing agreements with other utilities to support each other. In this case, we are receiving assistance from utilities or their contractors in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

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Thomas Graham: Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your questions. Remember to report all outages at 1.877.737.2662 and stay clear from downed wires.

Be safe.

Tom

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