The 2018 hurricane season is upon us. Last year’s storms caused terrible damage in many parts of the United States and Puerto Rico, and as is always the case, electric companies and line workers throughout the country answered the call for help from the companies that were hit by these storms.
While we all hope for a calmer hurricane season, experts are predicting a lot of storm activity. Whatever the level experienced, customers should rest assured that the dedicated women and men of the electric power industry will be ready to help their customers and neighboring companies if and when called upon.
Throughout my career I have witnessed mutual assistance in action many times. It truly is a hallmark of the industry, and there are not many others where neighboring companies rush to each other’s aid in a time of need. Today, mutual assistance is more important than ever, with customers needing their service to be restored as quickly as possible after a storm because of the vital need for electricity to live our lives.
To try to prevent outages and get the power back on as quickly as possible in the event of an outage, electric companies have been investing more than $100 billion each year in smarter energy infrastructure, which makes the energy grid more resilient. These investments have allowed electric companies to install sensors and other monitoring technologies to help crews identify issues and restore power faster. In some cases, companies can reroute power during a storm to prevent outages from occurring in the first place.
Companies are also working to improve the energy grid; for instance, in some places wood poles are replaced with steel or concrete poles that are more resilient in a storm. The results are making a difference in hurricane-prone areas — as an example during Hurricane Irma none of Florida Power & Light’s new transmission structures failed, and every one of the company’s substations was restored within a day.
In addition to continuing efforts to enhance the energy grid, the industry is also continuously working to enhance its mutual assistance networks by building upon the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and other major storms. This includes working to mobilize and allocate restoration crews as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
After Hurricane Harvey, for example, more than 10,000 line workers were sent to Texas from electric companies in more than 20 states to help with restoration efforts. Often operating in hazardous conditions, these crews worked around the clock to restore power safely and as quickly as possible.
Many of these line workers also traveled directly from Texas to Florida, Louisiana, and the Carolinas after Hurricane Irma followed a few weeks later. The damage left in Irma’s wake required one of the largest power restoration efforts in our nation’s history, with more than 60,000 line workers and support personnel from across the United States and Canada traveling to Florida and Georgia to restore power to customers.
And in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria caused damage and devastation unlike anything our industry has ever seen, and again line workers from across the country answered the call to help restore power to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.
As this year’s hurricane season begins, the U.S. electric power industry is proud of the progress it has made, but Mother Nature remains unpredictable and severe weather can still cause outages so our customers need to make sure they too are prepared.
There are easy steps that customers can take to prepare for outages and other emergencies, including having an emergency outage kit and food and water stocked and readily available, and developing an emergency plan for your family that accounts for any special medical or health needs your family may have.
It’s also important to be sure that your local electric company has your current contact information because electric companies put out status and safety updates during an emergency.
With the hurricane season now officially upon us, rest assured the electric power industry and its dedicated employees will be ready to respond to get your power back on quickly and safely — it’s in our industry’s DNA.
Michael Yackira is a former CEO of NV Energy Inc. and former chairman of the Edison Electric Institute. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.