BPU issues recommendations for utility storm response

TRENTON – A state regulatory agency has OK’d more than 100 recommendations to improve how utilities respond to major weather events such as Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy last year.

Among them are recommendations to give customers regular estimated power restoration times; having web pages for towns that includes detailed critical information, and updating it during periods of outages; having electric companies develop substation flooding preparedness plans; and have utilities submit to the state plans on how they would restore power to a minimum of 75 percent of their customers.

The action by the Board of Public Utilities comes on the heels of resident and lawmaker frustration with lack of communication from utilities during the two major storms that left millions without power and without answers to questions.

BPU said it will work with the Rutgers’ Center for Energy, Economic & Environmental Policy to evaluate and prioritize possible responses, including infrastructure improvements, particularly substation protection and selective undergrounding of critical infrastructure; evaluation of the capabilities and limitations of smart grid technologies; and expanding distributed generation.

In a release, the head of the N.J. League of Municipalities applauded the approvals at BPU.

“The people of New Jersey will be assured of better service and a lot less uncertainty, because of today’s action,” said East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, who also is League president.

“We appreciate the fact that utilities will now be required to provide local officials with daily updates concerning the number of customers out in their towns and the estimated number of customers that will be restored each day. The first such report will have to be provided after power has been out for 48 hours, and daily reports must continue until restoration is complete.” 

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