National Grid gets shutoff rules

The New York State Public Service Commission issued a staff report Wednesday recommending National G
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The New York State Public Service Commission issued a staff report Wednesday recommending National Grid begin communicating information to the public about when the company turns electricity off, in the same manner it does when electricity is cut off due to storm activity.

According to the report, on July 10 following a severe storm National Grid initiated a “load shed event,” meaning it voluntarily turned electricity transmission off because its system was temporarily overloaded, which cut off power to the cities of Troy and Cohoes and several other communities in the surrounding area.

The severe storm preceding the load shed occurred in the Capital Region between July 9 and 10 and by itself had knocked out power to approximately 38,400 National Grid customers, some until July 12.

While the PSC, which regulates New York’s utilities, found “   no significant shortcomings in National Grid’s restoration efforts related to this storm,” it also concluded that the “July 10 emergency load shed incident could have been averted had National Grid taken more aggressive action in restoring certain key elements to the electric system prior to the July 9 storm.”

PSC spokesman Jim Denn said the commission’s staff report found National Grid’s communication to the public about the load shed to be inadequate and recommends the company begin communicating load shed events in the same way it would power outages caused by storms.

“Historically they haven’t. They’ve treated [load shed events] differently from outages but they need to communicate them to the public in the same way, because the end result is the same; the public doesn’t have electricity,” Denn said.

The PSC made these recommendations in its report:

* National Grid should revisit a number of policies and procedures dealing with line repairs, emergency ratings, and system modeling.

* Staff recommends that a section be added to National Grid’s emergency plan dealing specifically with extraordinary events, and establish a specific and detailed communications protocol, including how the company will provide advance notice of a potential outage.

* National Grid should revisit the chain of communications to emphasize the importance of immediate and complete notification to all concerned parties, both external and internal, in outage and safety events.

* National Grid should review its media plan to ensure that its implementation is focused on timely and comprehensive communication that clearly addresses customer informational needs..

PSC officials have given National Grid 60 days to complete implementation of its recommendations.

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella said company officials are reviewing the PSC’s recommendations and agree with much of what was in the report. He said National Grid has already changed some of its communications protocols.

“We’ve made sure that we’ve kept in closer contact with municipalities. It’s also important to remember that this was really an atypical event. There were three separate storms involved during those days and high temperatures. It was very unique,” Stella said.

The PCS’s report also looked at the effect of thunderstorms in the Saratoga and Glens Falls regions on the night of July 10, which cut off power to about 82,000 cutstomers for up to 16 hours.

When a storm results in a power outage, National Grid typically posts the number of customers affected by them and where on its American Web site nationalgridus.com.

Stella said company officials also contact local media, municipalities and municipal leaders.

Stella said National Grid’s Web site already includes voluntary shutdowns among the outages listed on its Storm Central page at https://www1.nationalgridus.com/niagaramohawk/storm/storm.aspx, though it does not list the details of outages on that page. Stella said National Grid will continue to contain information about how many customers are without power and in what municipalities.

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