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NJ BPU Will Evaluate Utilities Oct. Storm Response [AUDIO]

Wiliams Thomas Cain, Getty Images

Just like after Hurricane Irene, the state Board of Public Utilities says they will evaluate how well power companies responded to the October nor’easter that created thousands of power outages, many of whom have yet to be restored.

BPU President Lee Solomon says there is a timeframe when residents should be back online. “The utilities have assured us that they will have 95 percent of the restoration complete by midnight Thursday, now there may be some individual and isolated incidents on Friday, but they should be far and few between.”

Solomon says the issue with this storm is the number of single outages because of fallen trees and downed wires due to the heavy snow.

“It is incredibly labor intensive first to determine the problem, repair the problem and get the trees cleared, and then get these places back online, especially since many of them were hospitals and schools.”

On a broad scale compared to Irene, Solomon says communication has improved. “There are a number of individual complaints, but people are frustrated and some of that frustration carries over when right on the heels of one storm you have another and you’re facing a similar problem. Even if communication is as best as it can be, you are going to hear some dissatisfaction from customers.”

He says a big part of the problem is population growth and development in recent years. “A substation goes out and a few years ago only a thousand people were affected, but nowadays it affects a few thousand people, so its a much bigger number.”

Solomon says, simply put, these were two very difficult damaging storms, “On the other hand its our obligation to learn from the storms, and to make sure that manpower is adequate, and that communication at least keeps people informed of what’s going on.”

In order to provide customers with more accurate information, he says there may need to be consideration given to significant infrastructure upgrades so that utilities have information as to who is out where and when. “Right now that technology is available, but the equipment is not in place. It is very expensive, but maybe there is an incentive to do that.”

Solomon says Governor Chris Christie has been aggressively pursuing utilities to better communicate following big storms. “We won’t have a full appreciation as to how well they responded to this storm until it is over. The one thing that is clear is that sensitivity is heightened and frustration is heightened because it was extremely traumatic for a lot of folks.”

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