Power Companies Expect More Major Storms, More Major Outages

Nov 30, 2014

Credit PSNH / flickr, creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33314439@N05/6279908349

  Now that virtually all of the 300,000 energy customers who lost power in Wednesday’s storm have their lights back on, New Hampshire's power companies are looking to the future. 

With weather the way it is these days, you have to expect at least one big one each year, says Unitil’s Alec O’Meara. "Take the Ice Storm in 2008, the wind event the year after that, the October snow storm, super-storm Sandy," O'Meara recalls.  Each storm, he says, is an opportunity to streamline Unitil’s response process. "One of the things we do afterwards is ask 'are there ways we can tweak and improve our restoration effort following any major event.'"

But according New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's Seth Wheeler, power companies like NHEC are already doing everything they can to prevent outages. 

"We’ve invested millions of dollars in the hardest hit area of this storm, clearing rights of way, tying substations together so they can be fed from multiple directions," says Wheeler. At the peak outage, 23,000 NHEC customers were without power. 

Wheeler says NHEC can't cut trees back on private property. "So unless you want all of the power lines buried at a huge cost that would make electricity  prohibitively expensive, then I think this is a fact of life in New Hampshire."

Wednesday's storm was the fourth-largest power outages in New Hampshire history. The state’s largest power outage occurred in December 2008 during an ice-storm that left about 322,000 PSNH customers simultaneously without power.