Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Pepco v. the Post

Pepco and the Washington Post have diametrically opposed views of the independent consultants' report. Pepco's press release characterizes their findings as "Independent Consultants Find Pepco's Electrical Distribution System Well Designed" while the Washington Post declares "Pepco reliability plan 'cobbled together' without detailed study."

More from the Washington Post:

The consultants concluded that Pepco's reliability fell in 2004, after the company failed to increase efforts to improve its distribution system following 2003's Hurricane Isabel.

"Normally one would expect a utility to spend more on preventative maintenance after such an event to counteract the increased risk of outages caused by hurricane damage," the consultants said in their 136-page report, which was filed last week. "Pepco, however, responded with insufficient preventative maintenance. . . . Not surprisingly, conditions on the system continued to deteriorate."

The report said that Pepco's spending on tree trimming and other vegetation management has been "inadequate" and that the company "routinely failed to meet its annual trimming goals." . . .

The consultants' nine-week investigation focused on outages related to four major storms in 2010. The report concluded that the factors that caused storm outages also played a major role in blue-sky outages, which come on days with no severe weather.

The report concluded that Pepco's vegetation management budgets in recent years "were never adequate enough to provide for the required level of [tree] trimming."

The report also said Maryland laws that restricted tree trimming raised the cost of maintenance. It concluded that if Pepco's more aggressive program were adequately funded, it would significantly improve reliability.

During field inspections, the consultants said, they found a number of problems that should have been identified during Pepco's routine examinations, including deteriorating power poles, broken guy wires and loose insulators. Some of the damage appeared to be storm-related.

"This is not surprising, as Pepco does not perform after-storm inspections or patrols to look for, for example, broken branches in overhanging trees that can easily come down in the next storm - faults waiting to happen," the report said.
and Pepco's press release:
Pepco agrees with many of the findings contained in the Report, and says the work that the company has underway is consistent with the findings.

Pepco Holdings Chairman, President, and CEO, Joseph Rigby, noted “Although the Commission’s independent consultants concluded that Pepco's physical storm restoration efforts were 'reasonably good', we recognize that further improvements, including improved communications with our customers will be critical to restoring confidence in the utility."

The Report concludes that Pepco’s distribution system infrastructure is sound, well designed and consistent with good utility practice. However, the Report also makes several key recommendations for system improvements, including increased vegetation management, the addition of advanced technologies that can help detect outages and restore power more quickly, and improved methods of estimating outage durations and communicating with customers.

Consistent with the consultants' recommendations, the Company looks forward to further developing the components of its comprehensive Six Point Reliability Enhancement Plan in order to achieve greater system reliability and customer satisfaction.