National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas could both improve their storm preparation and responses to power outages, according to the state Public Service Commission.
The commission on Thursday released a staff report evaluating utility responses to the outages caused by the regionwide ice storm Dec. 11 and the Oct. 28 snowstorm that hit some parts of the region. Each storm knocked out power to thousands of customers for days.
The PSC generally found that the utilities could be better prepared when they know a storm is coming and could improve the timeliness of their updates on when power will be restored.
“Determining how we can improve storm response and restoration efforts is a critical part of our mission to ensure safe and reliable service,” said PSC Chairman Garry Brown.
The report found that response was generally adequate from all utilities for the December storm, but it said that NYSEG didn’t have enough repair crews available and could have planned ahead better.
For all utilities, the PSC said initial reports should be included in damage assessments more quickly, general standards should be set for restoration updates and all utilities should be involved in pre-storm and post-storm conference calls even if they don’t expect to be affected.
It recommended that National Grid assign some crews to specifically respond to wires down, that retirees who may be called back for storm response be contacted in advance and that restoration information be updated more quickly.
National Grid has done its own evaluation that was submitted to the PSC and will take the PSC recommendations into consideration, said spokesman Patrick Stella.
“In every storm, there’s always things that can be learned,” Stella said.
NYSEG should develop new protocols for being sure enough crews are available in emergencies, the PSC said.
A NYSEG spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The Oct. 28 snowstorm brought 10 to 20 inches of snow to the mid-Hudson Valley and Adirondacks, affecting approximately 25,700 National Grid customers and 17,000 customers of NYSEG. Restoration took up to three days, according to the PSC.
The PSC said National Grid performed the restoration of service well in October, but NYSEG’s estimates of restoration times and crew deployment were deficient.
The Dec. 11 storm affected 229,000 National Grid customers and 38,000 NYSEG customers. Restorations took up to eight days.
National Grid in March received a national award for excellence in storm response for the ice storm response from the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group. Stella said National Grid had 1,000 crews working on restoration, some of which came from as far away as Michigan.
“We’re very proud of our response, especially because of the magnitude. It was an unprecedented event,” Stella said.