Utility worker shortage cripples ConEd’s storm response

Dive Summary:

  • “Utilities do not have the required field personnel at hand to effectively respond to large storms,” the Moreland Commission -- a panel convened by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to investigate utility storm response and preparation – claimed in a June 22 report. “National reforms are needed.”
  • When Sandy struck the East Coast last October, New York’s Consolidate Edison (ConEd) struggled to get 1,800 additional power line repair workers to respond to the devastating storm. ConEd then called for 2,500 lineman a few days later and only got 171. Despite participating in a mutual aid program in which U.S. utilities send extra workers to hard hit regions, years of cost cuts have hampered this effort, leaving utilities less prepared. Meanwhile, understaffed restoration efforts have definitely taken a toll: blackouts lasting more than five minutes continue to cost electricity customers about $29 billion every year, a 2004 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds.
  • U.S. utilities employed 61,000 line workers nationwide as of June 2012. That was 4.1% less than in 1999, the National Bureau of Labor Statistics finds. Utilities are increasingly leaning on contracted utility workers who they pay less and don’t have to hire year-round.

From the article:
“American Electric Power Co. was one of several utilities that couldn’t answer Con Edison’s call for workers before Sandy. The Columbus, Ohio-based company, which serves more than 5.3 million customers in 11 states, kept its crews local until after the storm hit.”
 

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