Donna Perry: Who’s Got The Power?
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Let’s make no mistake about it: massive and days-long losses of power now seem destined to become a troubling new fact of our busy modern lives. Exactly why, however, certainly seems a question that needs more substantive scrutiny than it has received.
It’s not just the issue that by most estimates, nearly half of the population (the customer number merely means households, within each household are multiple family members) of Rhode Island lost their power due to the storm, in most cases for several days. The wider questions should now be: what is the true ability of Rhode Island’s electrical infrastructure to hold up to increasingly frequent extreme weather? What is the ability of local officials to properly confront widespread power losses-- and coordinate adequate response plans once the power drops out?
It’s a serious growing dilemma when one considers that the combined estimate on power loss by household count over the past 18 months following the three major storms (Tropical Storm Irene, Superstorm Sandy, and the Blizzard) is roughly 700,000 households in Rhode Island. In all cases, power was knocked out for anywhere from two to six days.
A Rhode Island Problem
No one disputes that National Grid knows its business very well and seems to employ appropriate numbers of crews to scatter throughout the state and make repairs to the zapped power lines following destructive storms. The more frequently-occurring massive power losses, which seem to affect coastal areas of the state especially hard, may have more to do with Rhode Island’s transmission and distribution systems, as National Grid has noted, that run miles under our Bay and waterways to power coastal communities in the East Bay and southern coastal portions of the state.
That could account for why Rhode Islanders experienced power losses in greater numbers than neighboring states getting hit with the exact same weather force. For instance, Connecticut, which saw even higher snow totals in some areas (40 inches was logged in Hamden) and had no less wind no doubt, experienced power losses closer to 20,00-35,000.
Rhode Island needs to examine its underwater connection systems that exist in parts of the state and assess whether its age, level of deterioration, and vulnerability to increasingly fierce coastal storms make it a piece of infrastructure that has to be replaced and/or repositioned.
More Communication Needed
It can’t continue that the power outage reporting and reconnection process remains isolated strictly between National Grid and the individual customer during these massive outages. A local designee needs to troubleshoot between the local homeowners’ concerns about fallen live wires on their property, a lost call to the automated reporting center, and on and on.
When the Governor declares a state of emergency, the local EMA official or a designee within the local Police Department needs to be visible, known, and accessible to troubleshoot between the “powerless” homeowner and National Grid.
That clearly is not happening in local communities, except within the largest cities, such as Providence, with a visible local EMA operation. It’s increasingly troubling to watch our statewide officials, from Governor Chafee on down, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with National Grid spokesmen at EMA press conferences in the hours and days following storms, repeatedly congratulating each other—while outside in the real mayhem, individual customers living in the dark and cold have no reassurance whether that call they placed multiple times to the 800 automated National Grid line has actually been received and means anything.
The “powerless”—which means a whole lot of us over the past week—need to insist to both those transmitting the power, and those in power, that infrastructure and local coordination are concerns that don’t melt away so easily this time.
Donna Perry is Executive Director of RI Taxpayers. (http://www.ritaxpayers.com).
- Donna Perry: A Strike Against the Taxpayers’ Best Interests
- Donna Perry: New Year, Same Worries for RI Taxpayers
- Donna Perry: The Scare Campaign for Congress
- Donna Perry: Another Shameful Session
- Donna Perry: RITE is Wrong Again on RI Tax Policy
- Donna Perry: The Socially Disordered World of Adam Lanza
- Donna Perry: Being Small is RI’s Best Asset
- Donna Perry: Rhode Island’s Reckless Governor
- Donna Perry: The Taxpayers’ Pension Tab and the Union Lawsuit
- Donna Perry: Campaign Trail Transparency
- Donna Perry: Tax Credits, Loan Guarantees & RI’s Jobless
- Donna Perry: The Two Democratic Parties of RI
- Donna Perry: Free Tuition and RI’s Public Sector Entitlements
- Donna Perry: Taxpayers are Owed Transparent Answers by the EDC
- Donna Perry: Time for Heavy Lifting on Disability Pension Reforms
- Donna Perry: Gambling on a Jobs Strategy
- Donna Perry: The Butke Candidacy is About More than Education Reform
- Donna Perry: Time for a Bold, New Budget Process
- Donna Perry: Heated Days for Health Care and Pay Raises
- Donna Perry: The Expanding Reform Movement in RI
- Donna Perry: Too Many Broken Promises to Taxpayers
- Donna Perry: It Has Been a Rough Year
- Donna Perry: The GOP’s Severely Wounded Brand
- Donna Perry: Why Jon Brien Matters