Progress

ImageI have news to report regarding Pepco’s efforts to communicate with customers when the lights go out.  I recently had the opportunity to listen to the Pepco executives at the Maryland Public Service Commission’s Hearing on the Derecho 2012 storm. I will share with you some of the highlights, but if you’d like to read all the details, you can find the report at www.psc.state.md.us (Case Number 9298).

Pepco officials heard loud and clear how frustrated customers were during the last big storm when people were without power for extended periods of time. In response, Pepco seems to be making progress on improving its communications with customers when the lights go out. The Company, for example, is working on its policies around providing customers with a more precise “Estimated Time of Restoration.”  Here’s the rub – a global ETR is usually when the vast majority of customers are restored.  However, many customers will be restored before the global ETR date.  It’s not especially helpful to hear that the last customer will be restored in five, six or seven days – when for you it could be in one day. Pepco officials said they now plan to tell customers at the beginning of the work day if the power will be back on that day. In my opinion, that is much more helpful information that will at least let customers know what to expect.

Pepco is also making efforts toward communicating more effectively internally so it can deliver all the necessary repair materials needed to complete a job more effectively.  This means that once a crew arrives on the scene, it will be able to tackle any problem, whether it’s downed wires, trees or poles.

On the issue of restoring power to critical care facilities, Pepco officials intend to work with local emergency management agencies to better identify critical care facilities so they can respond more efficiently. And they’ve agreed to provide these EMAs with customer outage information to better ensure public safety.

The Vice President of Pepco’s Call Center has directed that the Call Center scripts be revised and his team  investigate technology to allow customers to decide when they get call backs – almost like a hotel wake-up call.  I like the idea of customers having more control!

Another improvement is that a Storm Center is being created on the Pepco website for use when major storms strike.  Customers can check the Storm Center for information about the storm, its impact on the Pepco electrical system, and expectations regarding power restoration. It would be a one-stop shop for many customers who can access the internet on their battery-powered smart devices during an outage.

While there is much more that Pepco can do to ensure customers have the information they need to plan their lives when they are without power, I believe change and progress are in the air.

As Customer Advocate, my job is to communicate your concerns and ideas to the Company. If you would like your voice to be heard, contact me at customeradvocate@pepco.com.

Felecia Greer
Customer Advocate

Thank you to our customers

On June 29, the violent, fast-moving derecho storm tore through states from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic, leaving in its wake a 700-mile trail of death and destruction, including 34 fatalities, and significantly impacted more than four million customers. At its peak, the storm left more than 450,000 Pepco customers without power, and a state of emergency was declared in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.

Damage from the derecho stormWe understand the hardship and inconvenience of living without electricity, as caused by the storm, and I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your patience and understanding as more than 3,000 personnel including Pepco forces, and mutual assistance crews worked to restore power. The storm caused significant damage to our critical infrastructure, which needed to be rebuilt prior to restoring power to customers. The restoration effort involved replacing almost 300 utility poles and almost 200 transformers – a significant amount more than what was replaced after Hurricane Irene in 2011. After rebuilding infrastructure, crews focused on restoring power to critical health and safety facilities, and then on restoring homes and businesses.

Yet, even with all of the destruction, Pepco restored power to 90% of customers by midnight on July 4, more than 48 hours before our original estimate. We reached 100% restoration just before dawn on Sunday, July 8. According to the Federal Emergency Management Association, more than 100,000 customers were still without power at that time in other parts of Maryland and nearby states.

In September 2010, Pepco committed $910 million over five years to improving our reliability. In the almost two years since we began that work, we’ve trimmed over 4,000 miles of trees, enhanced 144 power lines and replaced more than 500 miles of underground cable. Customers served by upgraded power lines experienced a 39% reduction in the average number of power outages of normal day-to-day service during 2011 as compared to 2010, and when outages did occur, they were shorter in duration, declining on average by 56% compared to 2010. Today, we are strong and more reliable – but no amount of strengthening to our system could have withstood a storm of this magnitude.

Again, we sincerely thank you for your patience. I would also like to thank customers who took time to show their gratitude – shaking crew members’ hands, and leaving them notes, water and Popsicles, and even sending emails or handwritten thank you notes to the company. We will continue to enhance our reliability, work hard to restore power when storms come again, and keep our customers informed of our progress every step of the way.

Tom Graham
President, Pepco Region