Utilities bear the brunt of post-Sandy backlash

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Quick take:  File this under "What have you done for me lately." Utility workers were heroes for a few days there, as they bravely battled outages despite storms and fires. But citizens still without power are growing increasingly cranky and -- far too often -- taking it out on utilities. Where are these people when utilities are in front of their regulators asking for upgrades to improve reliability?  I feel for the Connecticut linemen described below. It must be maddening to spend 18 hours a day to restore power only to have citizens throw eggs when you finally show up. – Jesse Berst

 

A Fox News report says utility workers in Bridgeport, Connecticut were pelted with eggs and other objects as they worked to restore power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Apparently the city's mayor had stirred up residents with his complaint that the local power company had "shortchanged" Bridgeport residents by taking care of wealthier communities first.

 

Edison Electric Institute Senior VP Brian Wolff told AOL Energy that Sandy represents "the largest single event for power outages that we've seen." Some 10 million people in 21 states were affected as Sandy made its way north.

 

But even with utility crews from as far away as Hawaii and Washington State helping the restoration effort that at one point had 64,000 workers involved, according to the DOE, frustrations have run high – and not just in Connecticut.

 

“I’m scared to go into the buildings in my own town,” Fort Lee, N.J. Mayor Mark Sokolich told The Record in a story posted Sunday. “These people are freaking. It’s now five or six days without power. They expect it to be on. They were told they would have power and it’s not on.”

 

In New York, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) took heat from both New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo for how long it was taking to restore power. A Reuters story quotes Tab Hauser, deputy mayor of the Village of Flower Hill on the north shore of Long Island, that he'd like to see LIPA consider underground lines and metal rather than wood poles. "Every year it's a band aid," he said. "This can happen next year and nothing will change." (Note: SGN readers are weighing in on the pros and cons of the grid going underground after our story inviting comments earlier this week.)

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With the Department of Energy reporting nearly a million customers on the eastern seaboard still without power Tuesday, moods aren't going to get any better with the anticipated arrival of a Nor'easter sometime today. The storm is expected to pelt some of the same areas hard hit by Sandy with more high winds, heavy rains and potentially snow.

 

In fact, Baltimore Gas & Electric issued a three-page press release Tuesday explaining what it's doing to prepare – and at the same time urging its customers to ensure they are prepared (and tips for going about it) should more fierce weather result in extended power outages.

 

Stocking up on water and fuel certainly makes more sense than buying extra eggs.

 

More of our Sandy coverage…

Why Sandy makes the smart grid more important than ever

Sandy victim: Smart grid sure worked for me

Smart grid jobs: So you really want to work in the electric power industry?

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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.

 

 

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