Susan Milligan's recent opinion piece implying that Pepco is insensitive and unresponsive to customer concerns and to the maintenance of its electric infrastructure is an inaccurate portrayal of the facts.
Ms. Milligan asserts that we have not prepared for weather events or worked to improve the reliability of our infrastructure. The facts do not support this argument. Our efforts to improve reliability began in September 2010 as part of a 5-year $910 million plan. Our success in this effort is rarely reported, but the results are real.
We have seen the number and length of outages decline. Customers served by upgraded power lines experienced a 39 percent reduction in the average number of outages during regular service. When outages occurred, the duration was shorter, declining by 56 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. We know we have to keep making progress, so our work continues.
Ms. Milligan asserts that we could have avoided the damage from this storm by moving power lines underground, yet she does not address the fact that Pepco supports undergrounding and already has almost 70 percent of its lines buried in the District of Columbia and 57 percent of its lines buried in Maryland. Simply saying that undergrounding "costs money" and that "Pepco has money" does not give readers a full appreciation of the tremendously complex work and cost involved in undertaking such a project.
We agree with Ms. Milligan in that trimming trees is essential to improving reliability. That is why we have trimmed over 4,296 miles of trees and more than doubled the number of experienced tree trimmers working in the field. That, however, does not mean our system will be immune from historic weather events.
Extreme weather is precisely that—extreme. So is the damage that results. So too is the level of Pepco's response. The derecho that struck Pepco's service area was historic in nature.
In the storm's wake, Pepco mobilized 3,000 crews and personnel within hours of the storm. Over 4,000 reports of downed wires were addressed. Customer service answered over 575,000 phone calls, with almost all of them answered within 30 seconds or less. In all, a total of 300,000 crew man-hours were expended to restore power. Most important, a significant percentage of customers were back on within 24 or 48 hours but the damage was so severe that repairs took longer than expected. We restored power to 90 percent of customers who lost it by July 4, and power was fully restored before dawn July 8.
While Susan Milligan is entitled to her own opinion; we prefer to present the facts. Pepco's full force response to the derecho demonstrates our commitment to our customers and our role in the community. That commitment remains unwavering and paramount.
David M. Velazquez
Pepco Holdings Inc., Executive Vice President, Power Delivery