Pepco Defends Storm Response to Regulators

Tuesday, Aug 17, 2010  |  Updated 6:59 PM EDT
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Pepco testified before the Maryland Public Service Commission about its performance during recent storms

Pepco testified before the Maryland Public Service Commission about its performance during recent storms

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Pepco Feels Heat Over Power Outages

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Pepco is defending its response to recent storms that left many without power for days.

But during a hearing before the Maryland Public Service Commission on Tuesday, Pepco officials also admitted that they've had problems communicating with customers and haven't performed as well as other area utilities in reliability and restoration of service lost.

Commission Chairman Doug Nazarian told Pepco officials the commission has received stacks of complaints about the utility's communication and "there is a perception the company is not prepared and is not mobilized" for storms.

"We know it's been frustrating," said David Velazquez, Pepco's executive vice president for power delivery.

Pepco officials said the utility's outage frequency is in the bottom half compared to other utilities over the past several years -- not including storms.

Bill Gausman, senior vice president of asset management, said the company has a four-year program under way it hopes will move it into the top half.
 

Pepco officials said they are boosting tree trimming work since most outages are due to downed trees and looking at burying lines where possible.

Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen said she was not pleased, noting company officials could not tell the commissioners how many customers they had in her county and she wanted the commission to demand specific action by Pepco.

Pepco serves almost 800,000 customers in the District of Columbia and Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

"I'd like a standard established that they would have to meet" for storm response, Floreen said.

Before the hearing began, Nazarian said the public would be able to comment at a hearing Aug. 30 in the Montgomery County Council building in Rockville.

Gov. Martin O'Malley said he hopes the PSC investigation will sort out how much of the lack of reliability is due to storms and how much is due to issues such as preventive maintenance. He said analysis is needed to determine whether the agency should invest more in infrastructure.

"I mean, if it's another couple cents a month and we're going to have more reliable service," he said, "I think most people would say that's better than throwing out their groceries every other week."


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