Jeannette M. Mills VP, Customer Operations & Chief Customer Officer
Today we restored electric service to the final customers who lost power directly as a result of the derecho. What seemed apparent as the storm ravaged the region—that it would be a long and difficult recovery—has proven to be accurate. We knew repairs would continue deep into the following week and, as damage assessments continued to filter in, it became clear the clean-up work would last through this weekend. More than half of those who lost service had it back within the first two days, and more than 90 percent were restored by last Thursday, but the magnitude of the damages prolonged final efforts through today.
Although we moved as quickly as possible to meet our commitment to bring everyone back online without sacrificing our focus on keeping employees and customers safe, for all who experienced a power outage and especially those who endured through the final days of restoration, this was a major hardship. For those few still without power as a result of the subsequent storms and extreme heat, our crews are continuing to make the repairs today to restore your service. We thank all of our customers for displaying patience and fortitude and demonstrating how Maryland pulls together in times of adversity. In spite of the frustrations and difficulties, you assisted us with reporting outages and helping neighbors, friends and family to weather the outage and a dangerous heat wave.
With the storm and the recovery largely behind us, we do not simply move on. As with all major storms, and in keeping with our commitment to continuously improve, we now begin the process of analyzing performance and understanding where there are opportunities to enhance our storm preparation and response. This is the process that has shaped and tested our storm restoration strategy over the years and enabled us to meet a new challenge, a weather event that delivered hurricane level damages without the forewarning provided by a coastal storm. In my 24 years with BGE—and this has been confirmed by my colleagues with sometimes decades more service—no storm has ever combined this magnitude of damage with its suddenness. What we have now experienced with the derecho becomes a part of BGE. We are now stronger for having gone through this.
Rest assured, we are committed to further adapting to what appears to be the new normal for weather—more storms, stronger storms and extreme temperatures—and evaluating the ability of infrastructure to withstand those extremes. We also must give our new, enhanced tree trimming standards, made stronger as a result of the recent Maryland Electricity Service Quality and Reliability Act, time to be implemented. We know the value that the more than $20 million we spend annually on tree maintenance brings, reducing outages along lines in recently trimmed areas by 40 percent. The overwhelming majority of outages associated with the derecho were due to very large trees and tree limbs, often times off BGE’s rights-of-way, falling onto power lines and other electric equipment. Many trees and tree limbs that were weakened by the violent weather now have the potential to cause additional outages. As a result, we will conduct a thorough inspection of the trees located near our equipment, and take the necessary steps to prevent damage by weakened trees.
We will also continue to explore better ways to provide estimates for restoration times, a point of frustration for many customers. With severe impact storms involving hundreds of thousands of outages, this remains a challenge for the entire utility industry, but one that as a company and an industry we continue to address.
This storm also confirmed much that we already knew. We knew that when we called for assistance, utilities would answer, just as BGE has time and again. The work of crews from across the country and Canada who left their homes so you could have power in yours has been nothing short of humbling. We knew that our employees would work tirelessly until every last customer was restored, and they have gone above and beyond in this effort. We knew that the only way to conduct this restoration was with a focus on safety and making sure that everyone involved in the restoration returns home to their families. We knew that our customers would display a level of understanding and patience that makes us proud to serve them. Finally, we know that saying “thank you” is not the end of this process. The work to learn the lessons of this storm has just begun, and the work we do to operate, maintain and upgrade a safe and reliable energy system continues every day. Thank you.