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Power outages reduced, storm hardening works, PSC says

The Public Service Commission (PSC) on Tuesday issued its report on electric utilities’ hurricane preparedness and restoration actions and “found that, overall, the length of power outages was reduced, indicating that storm hardening practices work.”

In 2006, the PSC ordered electric utilities to implement extensive activities to improve system resilience. That was followed by 10 years without a major storm landfall in Florida, making the 2016 and 2017 hurricane seasons the first opportunity to gather performance data.

“For more than a decade, the PSC has worked to strengthen the state’s electric infrastructure, while keeping costs down for customers,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said.

“This report confirms that our storm hardening rules are working and also identifies areas that can be improved, such as utilities’ undergrounding programs, customer communications, and tree-trimming coordination with local governments.

“It’s a real hardship to be without power, so it’s natural to be frustrated when it happens. We shouldn’t let that keep us from seeing the progress that’s been made – utilities achieved much shorter outage times than in the past, even though Irma was a huge storm,” Graham added.

The report’s key findings show the length of utility power outages was reduced from the 2004-2005 storm season, hardened distribution facilities performed better than non-hardened facilities, and power outages primarily resulted from falling trees, vegetation, and debris from outside the utilities’ rights of way.

The PSC also identified several issues the Legislature might want to consider, including a statewide public education program on tree trimming and possible legislation to require inspection and hardening of non-electric utility poles.

The “Review of Florida’s Electric Utility Hurricane Preparedness and Restoration Actions 2018” is here.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

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