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In the year since the unusual October snow storm devastated the region and caused monumental damage to CL&P’s electric system leaving more than 800-thousand customers without power, the company has taken decisive action to prepare for Mother Nature’s unpredictable wrath. In addition to strengthening the electric system and improving communication, the company is aggressively trimming and removing trees that threaten electric reliability. Falling trees and branches can cause more than 90 percent of outages during severe weather.
“The past year has been all about improving storm response,” said Bill Quinlan, CL&P’s Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness. “With many enhancements already tested during this summer’s storms, CL&P employees stand ready, stronger and better prepared to respond to whatever this winter may bring.”
CL&P has improved communication with municipalities, state agencies and customers. Specially trained CL&P employees are assigned to act as town liaisons in each municipality the company serves. These liaisons have worked closely with town leaders to identify their critical facilities. When a storm hits, new technology sends an alert if these facilities are without power so restoration can be prioritized. GPS tools illustrate where crews are working in real-time and new online maps show all outage locations. Northeast Utilities’ recent merger with NSTAR now provides CL&P and all NU subsidiaries with direct access to additional line workers who, when available, can assist in storm restoration efforts. In addition, the company has expanded its tree trimming program and doubled its vegetation management budget.
“Since last year’s storms, there is increased awareness that while trees are beautiful, they can also cause significant power interruptions for customers,” added Quinlan. “Because trees are the number one cause of power outages, we are working closely with communities to identify and remove trees that pose a significant hazard.”
The company has also filed a $300 million infrastructure hardening plan with the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. The plan outlines initiatives to reduce system vulnerability to outages, including enhanced tree trimming, installing stronger utility poles and wire and increased use of system automation technology.