The state Board of Public Utilities recently gave electric companies a list of ways to improve storm-related problems, including customizing outage Web pages for all municipalities.
The orders stem from Hurricane Irene in August 2011, as energy officials continue to probe the preparedness and response to Hurricane Sandy in October.
The BPU orders issued last month could be good news for anyone who pays an electric bill, since they are relatively inexpensive fixes, said Stefanie Brand, director of the Division of Rate Counsel, which represents utility customers.
“Right now we don’t know what’s the right thing to do. We need to figure that out before we start throwing money at the problem, and I’m glad to see that’s what they’re trying to do,” Brand said.
The BPU, which oversees regulated utilities, is requiring Mays Landing-based Atlantic City Electric and the state’s three other electric companies to take various actions — many relating to communications and internal operations and procedures — following a lengthy analysis of Hurricane Irene in 2011 and a subsequent October snowstorm.
Hurricane Irene knocked out power to 1.9 million electric customers in New Jersey, causing some outages that lasted longer than a week.
“A lot of things they’re requiring the companies to do are really just changes in procedure that hopefully will provide a better response next time around. They’re not necessarily things that cost a lot of money,” Brand said.
Among the orders:
f-9n Electric utilities should establish, maintain and update Web pages for each municipality in their region. Updated during outages, the information will show percentage of municipal customers without power, cause of the outages, damage assessment, estimated time of restoration and a description of those efforts.
f-9n Atlantic City Electric needs to submit a plan to describe how mutual assistance crews will be allocated during major events. This is because its parent company, Pepco Holdings Inc., serves about 2 million customers in Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey.
f-9n All electric utilities prepare formal reports to determine how substations can be better protected from flooding, how tree-trimming is impacting systems, and how smart grids could be used to improve reliability.
Most of the BPU’s orders require electric companies to comply by June 1, the official start of hurricane season.
Atlantic City Electric spokesman Frank Tedesco said the utility is still reviewing the BPU’s requirements to determine what changes to make.
Tedesco said the utility’s storm response system in place already includes items in the report.
Contact Brian Ianieri: