Utility plans to review restoration effort including current practice of providing individual estimated times of restoration during major events; customer input and industry best practices will guide future practice
Comprehensive inspection of trees throughout Central Maryland and electric delivery equipment in areas hardest hit by hurricane to take place in the coming weeks and months
Service to nearly all customers affected by Hurricane Irene has been restored
BALTIMORE, Sept. 4, 2011 – Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) today announced that it has restored electric service to nearly all of the 750,000 customers affected by Hurricane Irene — close to 100 percent — and continues to aggressively work to restore service to the remaining customers whose outages are largely due to severely damaged equipment or issues specific to their home or business. These scattered outages associated with Hurricane Irene should be restored by late this evening, once extensive and lengthy repairs are completed. However, the nature and scope of the remaining work will determine when specific customers will have their service restored. Customers who remain without service and believe they’ve contacted the utility to report their outage should contact BGE immediately for expedited restoration.
“BGE understands that many of our customers — especially those whose service is being restored today — have grown increasingly angry and frustrated by the lack of consistency regarding estimated times of restoration (ETR),” said Jeannette M. Mills, senior vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. “We understand that many customers experienced multiple ETRs, largely due to the fact that until actual crews arrived on the scene of their jobs and could conduct a thorough inspection of the damaged equipment, ETRs were based on very limited information. Given the challenges associated with providing ETRs during major events, BGE intends to take a very close look at this practice specifically as it relates to large-scale events such as Hurricane Irene. Input from our customers as well as industry best practices will be a critical part of this review process.”
The overwhelming majority of outages associated with Hurricane Irene were due to very large trees and tree limbs, often times off BGE’s right-of-way, falling onto power lines and other electric delivery equipment. Trees are the number one reason for weather-related power outages and BGE believes there may be many trees and tree limbs that were weakened by the hurricane and have the potential to cause outages in the coming days and weeks. As a result, BGE intends to conduct a comprehensive and thorough inspection of the trees located near its equipment, and take the necessary steps to mitigate any potential risk.
“BGE sustained far more damage to its electric infrastructure over a greater geographic area than other utilities serving customers in Maryland,” said A. Christopher Burton, senior vice president of gas and electric operations and planning for BGE. “In areas where restoration has been extended into today, major infrastructure is being rebuilt. These last repairs are very similar in size and scope to building a new electric delivery system from the ground up, which is far more labor intensive and takes much longer than other repairs.”
In at least one case, two cranes were necessary to remove a very large tree from heavily damaged equipment, a process that takes significantly longer than the standard tree debris removal process. Rebuilding the electric system, in this particular case, could not begin until the cranes were brought in to clear the tree and related debris from the damaged equipment and remove it from the job site.
In addition to the outages requiring major repairs of heavily damaged equipment, other outages being addressed today are associated with work that is specific to the individual customer’s home or business which, in most cases, could not have been safely completed before the main lines and other upstream equipment had been repaired. BGE is prioritizing the remaining restoration efforts based upon outages that have been in BGE’s outage management system the longest period of time. Important restoration information is available via www.bge.com, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.
There also were situations where BGE believed it had restored power, only to learn that another problem existed affecting an individual residence or business that neither the utility nor the customer was aware of, which hampered restoration. An example of this included the restoration of equipment that provides power to hundreds of customers. After the equipment had been repaired and power restored to a block or neighborhood, there were some individual customers whose service remained out due to fallen trees and limbs that damaged the wire leading from a utility pole directly to the home or business. In these and other instances, estimated times of individual restoration changed for some customers.
The utility urges customers whose service has not been restored to report their outage by calling 877-778-2222. Downed wires should be reported by calling 410-685-0123.
BGE will continue to staff its customer call center at increased levels to efficiently handle customer calls relating to extended outages from Hurricane Irene, as well as new outages being reported as a result of today’s storm activity. Restoration of service to customers who lost service today as a result of storm or other activity may be delayed as BGE’s focus will continue to be on outages relating to Hurricane Irene.
Hurricane Irene was one of the most damaging storm’s in BGE’s history, interrupting electric service to approximately 750,000 customers, some of whom lost power multiple times. Notwithstanding the many customers who experienced extended outages, BGE successfully restored electric service to the vast majority of its affected customers within five days of Hurricane Irene’s passing.
Well in advance of the storm’s arrival in Central Maryland, BGE proactively secured additional resources to ensure it could begin the monumental restoration effort as soon as it was safe to do so. Throughout the restoration efforts, the utility continued to acquire additional out-of-state linemen and support staff as they became available. In all, more than 2,300 external resources from 18 states have been actively engaged in the restoration effort. Assistance has been provided by utility and contract employees from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
BGE has also been very aggressive with its communication to customers. Days in advance of the storm, attempts were made to contact all 1.2 million BGE customers advising them of the hurricane’s approach and potential impact, reminding them to stay prepared, and advising them of the likelihood that the restoration effort would last multiple days. Customers identified in BGE’s system as special needs also were contacted an additional time and reminded to have alternate arrangements in place should they experience an extended outage. Crew locations and other important restoration information have been and will continue to be made available via www.bge.com, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.
BGE’s balanced approach to service restoration ensures crews work simultaneously in every jurisdiction where BGE has customers, addressing public safety and critical infrastructure issues across BGE’s Central Maryland service area. As part of BGE’s standard process during major events such as Hurricane Irene, the company continues to maintain regular communication with state and local public and elected officials and emergency operations centers, helping to ensure a coordinated effort between the jurisdictions and the utility.
BGE, www.bge.com, headquartered in Baltimore, is Maryland’s largest gas and electric utility, delivering power to more than 1.2 million electric customers and more than 640,000 natural gas customers in Central Maryland. The company’s approximately 3,000 employees are committed to the safe and reliable delivery of gas and electricity, as well as enhanced energy management, conservation, environmental stewardship and community assistance. BGE is a subsidiary of Constellation Energy, www.constellation.com, a FORTUNE 500 company also headquartered in Baltimore, with subsidiaries that generate, sell and provide other energy-related services to customers throughout North America.