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LIPA takes heat from New York congressman over Sandy


6/14/2013 11:00 AM

King impressed by New Jersey IOU's smart grid savvy

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) should be completely restructured because the utility was so slow to restore power after Hurricane Sandy struck last fall, Rep Peter King, R-NY, told a NEMA-sponsored event yesterday in Washington, DC. The congressman held a news conference shortly after Sandy where he asked the "[US] Army Corps of Engineers to come in, federal officials to come in and run LIPA.

"That's how out of control they got," King said in response to a question from Smart Grid Today .

LIPA was one of the slowest of the affected utilities to restore power after Sandy tore up the East Coast last October and knocked out power for about 8.2 million people. At a meeting four days before Sandy, trustees of LIPA discussed the coming storm for a total of 39 seconds in a two-hour meeting, the New York Times reported online in November.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, "was almost at war with LIPA during" Sandy and wants to overhaul the utility's management, King said yesterday.

In his January "State of the State" address, Cuomo proposed privatizing the utility, saying, "Hurricane Sandy revealed systemic flaws and weakness in LIPA's structure" (SGT, Jan-14).

New York City Mayor Bloomberg gave LIPA some constructive criticism when earlier this week he laid out a slew of steps that the Long Island utility and Consolidated Edison could take to better prepare for climate change (SGT, Jun-12). Bloomberg's plan could be "a model for the country" in terms of infrastructure preparedness, King said yesterday.

Part of LIPA's problem is its insularity, he argued. The utility, whose service area of 1.1 million customers is in King's congressional district, needs to be "more responsive to elected officials" to avoid repeating its post-Sandy performance, the congressman added.

Whereas New Jersey "had a much better, computerized system so they were able to tell people when they could expect their power to come back on," LIPA "couldn't tell within 10 days as to how long it was going to be," King lamented.

King impressed by PSE&G

King was at a US House homeland-security subcommittee hearing this month where an executive from New Jersey IOU Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) said "smart grid technology ... makes it possible for utilities like ours to obtain critical information that can help pinpoint problems and automate restoration," he reported.

"Smart grid technology can dramatically shorten the time it takes to restore service in the aftermath of a storm and can prevent outages from becoming widespread," Jorge Cardenas, PSE&G's VP of asset management and centralized service, added, according to testimony on the subcommittee's website. Cardenas was explaining his firm's proposed $450-million investment in smart grid technologies.

Asks PSE&G to help LIPA

After hearing that testimony, King encouraged PSE&G officials to meet with their LIPA counterparts to share best practices in leveraging smart grid technologies, the congressman said yesterday. For him, the surest way to fix LIPA is through public accountability, "an entirely new management," and by studying the methods of neighboring utilities that performed much better during the storm.

LIPA calls itself the second largest municipal electric utility in the US in terms of electric revenue, though instead of answering to a city council as do many other municipals, each of LIPA's Board of Trustees members was appointed by a state lawmaker or the governor, according to the utility's website.

Source: Smart Grid Today