As a state that pays some of the highest electricity rates in the country, Connecticut can and should expect better storm response than it got from its regional electricity suppliers, Eversource and United Illuminating, last summer.
Eversource serves nearly 1.3 million customers in the state, and United Illuminating, 340,000. As is usually the case, the Wallingford Electric Division seemed to perform better than the two giant utilities.
Tropical Storm Isaias left hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the state without power for up to a week last August, and both utilities have been roundly criticized for lack of preparation, poor response and poor communications. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal went so far as to suggest that the state break up Eversource.
Last week the state’s regulator, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, issued violation notices to the two companies and proposed a $30 million fine for Eversource and a $2.1 million fine for United Illuminating, after releasing final reports on its investigation of the utilities' storm responses.
A spokeswoman for Eversource acknowledged that “there are areas for improvement,” although The Associated Press reported that both companies are expected to contest the proposed fines. Common sense suggests that consumers will wonder why this process has taken so long.
But as slowly as the wheels of government seem to turn in this state, at least we now have seen some action. Part of the public-image problem for PURA is that to the average resident it’s just another faceless bureaucracy, and one that keeps changing its name — from PUC to DPUC to PURA in just a few years — whereas the typical customer sees the logo of Eversource or UI every time they pay their monthly bill and every time some wires come down on their street.
PURA also ordered the companies and their affiliates to improve how they respond to major storms and how they communicate with their customers. If these substantial fines can accomplish that, they will be justified.