Florida PSC to review utility storm prep as hurricane season begins
- At an internal affairs meeting scheduled for June 19, the Florida Public Service Commission intends to consider a draft report on hurricane preparedness and restoration that follows months of study and a two-day workshop with the state's utilities.
- Florida utilities were hit hard by Hurricane Irma last year, and more than half of the state's residents lost power. A trio of large storms that struck the United States during the last storm season have spurred calls for system improvements and redundancies.
- The commission's report is part of a docket established in October to collect and analyze data on the utilities' transmission and distribution facilities, vulnerabilities and possible fixes.
The 2018 hurricane season officially started last week, and vulnerable utilities are rushing to bolster their systems in advance of another event. The largest utility in the state, Florida Power & Light, has been working on system hardening, and following Hurricane Irma last year, the utility said those efforts have paid dividends.
About 40% of the FPL system has been hardened, with traditional wooden utility poles replaced by either a composite material or concrete, along with some power lines buried underground. When Irma hit, those modernized poles were largely able to withstand the winds.
In addition to continuing pole replacement and line burials, the PSC report will look for other ways the state's electricity system can be made more reliable. Florida's efforts are similar to those in Texas and Puerto Rico, where storms of varying destruction last year highlighted the need for improvements.
Regulators in 2006 ordered electric utilities to improve system resilience. After years without a major storm, the 2016 and 2017 hurricane seasons were "the first opportunity to gather performance data from the different components of the programs," regulators said. Following last year's storm, PSC staff also issued data requests to all electric utilities and sought input from customers and non-utility stakeholders.
Hurricane Maria's destruction of Puerto Rico's grid necessitated a full rebuild of the island's grid. When Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf Coast last year, it knocked out power for 300,000 customers.
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