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PSC enters hurricane readiness debate

The chair of the state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, says her board also has started “thinking” about how it can help get power back on quicker after major storms.

Julie I. Brown released a statement Wednesday morning, more than a week after Hurricane Irma knocked out electricity to millions of Florida homes and businesses:

PSC Chair Julie I. Brown

Brown

“The power grid is the foundation for Florida’s economy and how all Floridians live, work, and function on a day-to-day basis. Hurricane Irma was an epic and catastrophic storm event that affected almost all of Peninsular Florida. Due to the enormity of this storm event, its statewide impact, and the vast numbers of persons affected, restoration of power statewide is of a historic magnitude not seen before in this state.

“Florida is still in restoration mode. Not all customers have power. Nonetheless, we have already begun to think about what the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) can do to ensure everyone involved in the power restoration process cost-effectively implements lessons learned from the storm.

“Because it is critical that customers receive safe, adequate, and reliable electric service, the PSC already has in place several processes to review utility storm preparedness plans and to evaluate the impact of storms on electric infrastructure. One process is that prior to the start of the hurricane season, we hold annual public meetings with Florida’s electric utilities to hear about new practices and technology to facilitate a discussion between utilities and the PSC.

“In addition, our rules require utilities to develop plans to address the ability of transmission and distribution facilities to withstand extreme weather conditions, and to reduce restoration costs and outage times to customers. We review these plans on a regular basis.

“The public should be aware that the PSC plans to review Hurricane Irma’s impacts on electric utility infrastructure and the utilities’ post-storm restoration performance as soon as reasonably feasible. As part of this proceeding, forensic data will be collected on the transmission and distribution facilities impacted by Hurricane Irma’s winds, and the utilities tree trimming practices and pole inspection cycles will be analyzed.

“After an intensive fact-based review, the PSC will identify opportunities to improve utility practices and procedures.”

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