December 03, 2019
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CMP: Storm response is well planned, safe and efficient

Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
Nick Sambides Jr. | BDN
A worker from Sargent Electric Co. works to restore electricity on Route 15 in Deer Isle on Oct. 17, 2019, following a wind storm that cut power to almost 4,000 households on the Blue Hill Peninsula.

When the power goes out because of a storm, Central Maine Power, like any electric utility in Maine, is focused on safely and quickly restoring power to families and businesses. Employees from across the company leave their families behind to work on getting the lights back on. From the lineworkers scheduled around the clock, often in brutal weather, to those employees who arrange meals and lodging for out-of-state support crews, the company doesn’t stop until the last customer is restored.

For Rep. Seth Berry to compare, as he did in a Nov. 11 BDN OpEd, the storm recovery work of CMP — serving 627,000 customers across 326 cities and towns through 26,000 miles of line — with the storm response by the eight Maine consumer-owned utilities who serve 97 towns among them is misleading.

Within 48 hours of the mid-October nor’easter subsiding, CMP had restored power to 154,240 customers — or 85 percent of those who lost power across our 11,000-square-mile service area. As important, crews had safely cleared local roads of downed wires and debris, collaborating with local emergency management officials to enable local travel for first responders. Two days later, we had restored power to all but a handful of remote and seasonal customers.

CMP works days ahead of every expected storm to prepare for restoration. We preposition crews across the service area. We designate employees who are embedded with county emergency management agencies. We engage with contractors and our sister companies in the Northeast to arrange for outside crew support. We supply and deploy our mobile command centers, and we adjust work schedules as needed. We are agile, moving people and equipment around the state to focus on the hardest hit areas as restoration progresses during and after an event.

During the October nor’easter, CMP crews were aided by 490 contractors and out-of-state line crews, including those from our sister companies in New York and Connecticut. Two weeks later, as another storm blew in, the company had already positioned 125 contractor line crews in the state and continued bringing in crews as they became available during the larger, regional event.

Reliable service is something all electric customers should expect. And, in the most heavily forested state in the nation, electric utility companies must balance reliability investments with cost.

Between 2009 and 2019, CMP invested $3 billion into capital programs to strengthen Maine’s power grid, and we plan to invest an additional $200 million to $300 million annually into more system improvements.

We are systematically installing stronger poles, more resistant wire and additional automation features to reduce outages in areas that experience them the most. We have proposed additional tree trimming measures to improve reliability that are currently under consideration by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

CMP’s shareholders have chosen to invest in Maine, and we are making these investments while keeping rates the lowest among all New England states, New York and New Jersey.

Thomas DePeter is senior director of electric operations at Central Maine Power.

 



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