The leafy trees that line the avenues of the nation's capital are part of its charm and part of its curse, according to Pepco. The utility has long maintained that our region's rampant tree population is a big part of the maddening frequency of power outages.
"We have the fourth-densest tree population in the country, behind Charlotte, Portland and Atlanta," Pepco president Thomas H. Graham said Tuesday on News4 Midday. "Trees are beautiful. I'm from D.C., I grew up in this area... but somehow we have to get a balance between reliability and the environment."
Pepco's $256 million reliability plan will take five years to implement. It includes $36.5 million for tree trimming and management. The focus on maintenance will make a big difference, Graham said.
"There are a lot of trees but we have a lot of wire," he said. "We have 14,000 miles of aerial cable."
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So why not bury those wires and let the trees grow as they may?
Undergrounding the wires, Graham said, "costs anywhere between $3.5 million to $11 million per mile. We understand that there's a big price tag associated with it, so we have to be careful in how aggressive we are."
Pepco will be considering "selective undergrounding" in some areas, but there's a downside to that as well. Outages should be less frequent, but they will last longer, because the source of the problem won't be immediately apparent.
"We have to dig to them," Graham said, "so instead of spending hundreds of millions on reliability, we would be spending billions for undergrounding."
Graham also responded to some customer complaints and disclosed why he doesn't Tweet.