September 1, 2011

NYSEG the laggard?

Hurricane Irene disrupted an area served by lots of different power companies, providing a rare chance to compare response. Unfortunately, NYSEG, the power company that serves Dryden, seems to be faring among the worst:

NYSEG, which serves parts of northern Westchester and most of Putnam County, came under the harshest criticism Wednesday by town and county officials and customers. They said the company did not adequately communicate about the status of outages and when power would be restored. They said NYSEG also gave conflicting information at times, such as sending out automated messages to homeowners still sitting in the dark that their power was back on, or reporting that a neighborhood had 980 customers out and then 30 minutes later, have the number jump to 1,800.

"My frustration with NYSEG at this point is beyond description. They are not giving us information to impart to our residents," Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy said Wednesday afternoon. "They did not take this hurricane advisory seriously enough to prepare for this event."

Jim Salmon, a NYSEG spokesman, disagreed and said advance planning had been done and crews were ready.

"This was a huge disaster. We have a lot of damage and we are having our crews work straight through until everyone is restored," he said late Wednesday. Additional crews were flown in from Nebraska on Tuesday and from southern California on Wednesday, he added.

And Governor Cuomo seems to have noticed:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took the same tack on Wednesday, insisting that Mark S. Lynch, the president of New York State Electrical and Gas, make public appearances in areas without electrical service.

It is, of course, certainly possible that NYSEG faces more difficult terrain, customers dispersed further across the landscape, or other challenges that the other companies don't face. I worry, however, that this reflects the hollowing out of the company as it joined Energy East and then Iberdrola, reducing staff and outsourcing more and more operations.

Hopefully the remaining customers will get their power restored soon (Friday? Next week?) and some kind of study of the response will let us know what happened.

In the meantime, a generator and a wood stove are looking like more attractive options.

Update: the latest figures show NYSEG as 3rd of 5 companies, though the top two are at 97% restored and NYSEG is at 88%. More: Now they're the 4th of 6 companies, at 93%. The three above are at 99%, 99%, and 97%, and the two below are at 91% and 85%.

Posted by simon at September 1, 2011 11:15 AM in
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