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Grade the Grid

Power is restored to nearly all of North Kingstown. So how well did National Grid do after the storm?

Nearly 344,000 Rhode Islanders were without power after Tropical Storm Irene slammed into southern New England Sunday. Five days after the storm, that figure has now dropped to about 28,000.

With 1,200 North Kingstown residents still without power on Friday afternoon, how would you grade National Grid's job performance after Irene?

Are you impressed by the work they've done or incensed?

Do they deserve an A? B? C? D? F? Sound off in the comments below.

John O'Brien September 02, 2011 at 06:39 PM
I'd give them a solid C, mostly for the effort of the workers. Now I know I'm gonna get a ton of flack for saying that but the truth is they've turned electricity in this state essentially into a monopoly. Years ago, if the power was out you'd have someone there working on it in minutes. Even after Hurricane Bob, and some of the other bigger hurricanes we had a better response. Don't see this as me knocking the workers - it's the company. We got hit with a tropical storm and people are without power for a WEEK? What if it was an actual hurricane? They need to better maintain the lines to PREVENT this in the future. They've had plenty of time to get to work, there just isn't a reason to because you can't jump ship. But since we don't really have another choice, what does it matter? Who else could you use for electricity?
Class of 98 September 02, 2011 at 08:41 PM
I'd give an 'B+'. Remember as long as your power out is out they are not making any money. So its not as if taking this long is helping them.
Dave September 03, 2011 at 11:10 AM
John O Your comments are right on the money! They didn't get the power on as fast as they could have, should have. The company hasn't kept up with the necessary trimming of trees they should be doing, and they laid off too many people in trying to keep their profit margin up, to the detriment of their customers. We need some competition in this state! I give them a C-
Maria Cassaday September 03, 2011 at 01:01 PM
Juniper Hill is still out! As of Saturday 9:00am. D
Bjorn Wellenius September 03, 2011 at 01:12 PM
How would you expect competition in power transmission and distribution? It is easy (and not very effective) to have competition in the supply of energy but the wires that actually carry that energy to our town, stores, and homes are too costly to duplicate. Ideas welcome!
Kentiki September 03, 2011 at 02:03 PM
F minus !!! anything over 24-36 hrs is simply lack of effort, we were out for 61 hrs , I did not see a grid or electric truck until late tues night and then the power came on, not enough effort,they should credit at least one months bill for the areas out over 36 hrs
Mike September 03, 2011 at 02:29 PM
I would say a "B". Given the amount of local damage and the limited local resources plus the fact that the storm damage was 500 miles wide and 1500 miles long the fact that so many have power today is pretty wonderful. The only way to improve on this is to improve their preventative management program, which is a direct cost to the rate payers. We need to decide now if we want to pay a few cents more per KWH for better response in the future. I doubt people do as that might add $75 more to the cost of a summertime bill (for a home with AC). But if ratepayers want that then there would be more tree trimming and more underground cable in key areas. Plus there would be more crews on standby being paid to do nothing but wait for a storm, or more crews from Ohio being asked to leave their homes three days before a storm hits only to turn around when they aren't needed. Bottom line is we get what we pay for. Given our rate and the unusually large nature of the storm National Grid did fine.
Mike September 03, 2011 at 02:34 PM
Your real beef is with the PUC. National Grid is a regulated utility. They can't make more than a fixed amount of money so laying off people or not trimming trees doesn't increase their profit. If you want faster response next time, demand it from the PUC and let them know how much you are willing to pay for it because it isn't coming for free
Wellness Store & Day Spa September 03, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I realize this is a moot point, however, why is New England so behind other areas in the US who bury power lines? I also am amazed they are so badly maintained and situated so close to the ground. Countless trees were down on top of power lines, including on our property. Is it time to modernize the electrical system to 20th century standards? Considering the price we pay for this essential need........
Mike September 04, 2011 at 03:19 AM
Three factors: 1) RI's "grid" is one of the oldest in the country and was fully built out many years ago. There has been little recent growth to allow newer equipment to be used 2) Burried cables cost 30% more than elevated ones. That added cost would substantially increase the cost of power 3) Burried cables take 35% more time to repair
john boscardin September 04, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Mike, National Grid is a PUC but the PUC does not regulate profitability. The PUC only regulates cost per k/h. Size of workforce will impact profitability.
jeff September 04, 2011 at 11:53 AM
John, I believe the PUC sets the rate, which is determined by cost of producing, plus a reasonable profit for the utility. The rate hearings receive evidence of all these things in setting the rates. If the profits are too high, the requested rate increase will be denied. In all this debate, people need to bear in mind that having standby crews for things that only happen once a decade increases costs and could justify a rate increase if there is sentiment for more resources. Don't get me wrong -- I would take everything that National Grid says with a HUGE grain of salt, but just wait for the requested rate increase based on this storm.
john boscardin September 04, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Oh I agree Jeff and by no means am I defending N.G. The PUC regulates the rate to users, not the number of employees N.G. has as Mike inferred above. Thas was the distinction i was trying to make.
jeff September 04, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Point taken.
Wellness Store & Day Spa September 04, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Mike I appreciate your points, however, underground cables would not be damaged by falling trees. Therefore the savings would counter the expense of installation.
dk September 06, 2011 at 06:07 PM
Hmmm, this is a tough one. From a big picture perspective, I would give them a C /B-. NG did an okay job communicating prior to the storm, during the storm throughout the entire region, and the afterwards during recovery. Inefficiencies blatantly exist though. In talking with NG repair crews, I found that none had a good perspective on what was going on. When NG has employees going door to door asking if we have power yet, they have inefficiencies.

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