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Public Service Commission Orders Utility Improvements

The Maryland Public Service Commission issued an order on Wednesday directing electricity companies to improve service reliability and resiliency.

Utility companies in Maryland will need to beef up efforts to improve electricity service reliability and resiliency, according to an order issued by the Maryland Public Service commission on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

The order requires utility providers like Pepco to do the following:

  • Figure out what needs to be done to restore electricity service to at least 95 percent of customers within 50 hours after an outage, with a focus on customers who may need electricity due to special medical needs.
  • Distribute information to customers as soon as it is available during electricity outages, and update that information regularly. 
  • Analyze staffing to determine if there are enough trained personnel on staff or available through contractors or mutual assistance.
  • File plans (by May 31, 2013) outlining measures that could be completed in the next five years to accelerate reliability improvements to the distribution system, along with cost and benefit analyses for each measure. 
  • Complete more detailed studies considering appropriate standards for distribution system resistance and resilience, and submit (by Aug. 30, 2013) studies to determine what needs to be done to reduce the number and duration of service interruptions after a major electricity outage.
  • Submit a report (by March 29, 2013) on any improvements made to communications systems since the June 29, 2012, derecho.
  • Submit another report (by May 31, 2013) on any further improvements planned, along with a timetable for completing the improvements.
  • Participate in work group sessions with commission staff.

Pepco has 534,601 electricity customers in Maryland, and 410,679 (77 percent) of them were without power at the peak of electricity outages after the derecho—double the number of outages after Hurricane Irene, according to the commission's order.

President Obama even declared that six jurisdictions in Maryland, including Montgomery County, were part of a major disaster area after the derecho, which occurred during a heat wave.

On June 9, Montgomery County Council Member Roger Berliner lambasted Pepco for its response to the derecho, saying that "[our] residents have had enough. ... While this was a big storm and outages are to be expected, Pepco’s performance—on every level—was unacceptable. The length of the outages. The appalling communications. The computer glitches and data discrepancies. The list can go on and on," Potomac Patch reported.

Eight public hearings were held around the state at which electricity consumers could voice their frustrations about the lack of electricity for several days () at the end of June and beginning of July, Rockville Patch reported:

Among those who testified was a multiple sclerosis sufferer who said he and his wife ran up four days of hotel and meal expenses as they sought relief from triple-digit temperatures, which exacerbated his condition.

In the Town of Somerset, Council Member Cathy Pickar started a "Pack up Pepco" campaign—complete with catchy tune and online petition—in response to the lengthy power outage. She made the ABC7 morning news.

In related news, Pepco asked for a $60.8 million rate increase last November, Patch reported. Last July, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved $18 million of a $60 million rate increase request made by Pepco earlier in the year, Patch reported.

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