October 23, 2019

Needleman Leads Senate Legislation to Hold Utility Companies Accountable, Improve Power Outage Response Time

State Senator Norm Needleman leads Senate passage of legislation Thursday on the Senate floor.

AREAWIDE — Yesterday, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) led the Senate’s passage of legislation designed to hold utility companies accountable and improve their responses to power outages. It spurs the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to establish a docket containing standards for acceptable performance from utility companies and standards for minimum staffing and equipment levels for electric distribution companies.

“In recent years, response times to repair our electrical systems after weather incidents have risen sharply,” said Sen. Needleman. “Families, residents and businesses all rely on consistent power to live their daily lives, and the longer these delays stretch, the worse they become. As a business owner, I know that for many people, every second of a power outage means lost money, and an unstable electrical system  We need to review and set new standards for utilities today so that tomorrow’s storms don’t leave as large of an impact. As the Senate Chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, I am proud to have guided this legislation to the Senate floor.”

Senate Bill No. 469, “An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to Establish Performance Standards and Minimum Staffing and Equipment Levels for Electric Distribution Companies,” tasks the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority with establishing industry-specific standards for acceptable performance by electric utility companies in emergencies. This is designed to protect public health and safety and minimize the number of service outages and disruptions that could occur.

In setting those standards, PURA will study the adequacy of electric distribution companies’ infrastructure, utilities and equipment, current policies and procedures for coordination between stakeholders before emergencies, and staffing and equipment levels companies currently employ, including their minimum staffing levels.

This legislation is intended to address delays in service restoration after power outages and comes as Connecticut electricity customers face the most expensive costs in the continental United States. Earlier this year, Eversource received approval for a rate increase from PURA that will see customers’ electricity bills grow more than $20 annually. Based on that increase, the company would be expected to increase staffing, improve response times after inclement weather and bolster its current resources.

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