Representatives of Pennsylvania’s top electric companies testified Thursday morning in the state capitol on how they handled last months major ice storm. PECO’s Chief Operating Officer Mike Innocenzo testified in front of the Consumer Affairs Committee. More than 700,000 PECO customers lost power in Pennsylvania as a result of the storm, which is roughly 40% of the company’s overall customers.
He said it was the second most damaging storm in the company’s history and in many ways had an even bigger impact than Hurricane Sandy. Innocenzo also said the company doubled the amount of staff after the ice storm, but it still left some customers without power for more than a week. “I know for our customers, especially those customers that were off on the longer duration, that this was a very trying event and I also want to just thank them for their patience both during the event and their partnership with us going forward” said Innocenzo.
He said crews came from as far away as Arkansas, Alabama and even Canada to come help PECO. Innocenzo also said a lot of the lessons learned in Hurricane Sandy helped PECO when dealing with the ice storm, namely communicating important messages to customers using social media.
PPL’s Vice President Dennis Urban also testified at the hearing. Most of their customers lost power in Lancaster County. He said in total more than 90,000 customers lost power and that roughly 60% of them had power back within a day. The members of the committee commended Urban for the effort, but he conceded there is room for improvement. “We can do a better job of understanding the skills and capabilities of foreign crews or contractors and also foreign utility crews that are coming into our service territory so we can better prepare jobs for them as they arrive and get the material ready for them” said Urban.
Urban also said that going forward they will have helicopters patrol the power lines to make sure nothing is obstructing them.