A joint report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation finds that additional tree trimming would have gone a long way toward mitigating the widespread power outages that occurred in Connecticut in .
According to the report (see attached PDF), 74 transmission lines and 44 transmission substations in the Northeast experienced outages in the bizarre storm which dumped up to a foot of snow on the region two days before Halloween. The bulk of the damage, however, was to local distribution lines when trees and branches fell on wires.
Altogether more than 750,000 Connecticut residents lost power in storm — some for as long as a week.
"Nearly three quarters of the transmission line outages occurred when healthy trees, most located outside of utility rights-of-way, fell onto the lines uprooted by the weight of the snow compounded by the soft, wet ground," a NERC press release announcing the report's findings states.
In addition to carrying out more aggressive tree trimming, the report recommends that the state's utilities revise their tree trimming policies and create more detailed reporting of "vegetation-caused outages."
The report suggests that utilities take into account growth rates of trees when installing new transmission lines — and identifying species of trees that either grow quickly and/or are more likely to fall.
Perhaps more important, the report recommends that utilities work more closely with , state regulators, and local town governments to located outside of rights of way.
In response to the report, The Connecticut Congressional Delegation issued the following statement:
“We were deeply troubled and frustrated by two major power disruptions in as many months, which wreaked havoc on the lives of our constituents, and called on FERC to investigate the reliability of Connecticut’s electric system," said state Senate and House leaders who signed the statement. "This important investigation by FERC and NERC has resulted in recommendations that must be taken seriously to ensure Connecticut residents and businesses will not find themselves in a similar situation again."
"Some of the report confirms what we already knew — such as downed trees were the leading cause of outages — but also makes clear utility companies need to be more vigilant to ensure a debacle like last fall is not repeated," state elected leaders said. "We urge CL&P and Northeast Utilities to work with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to ensure trees and other vegetation are better maintained to reduce the severity of future power outages.”
CL&P, the state's largest provider of electric power, has already responded to the need for additional tree trimming. According to a March report in , CL&P recently launched an expanded tree work program that includes significantly more routine and enhanced tree trimming across the state.
This year, CL&P plans to spend $53.5 million on tree trimming – an increase of approximately $27 million over 2011, the report states. The expanded tree work is being performed along 4,900 miles of the company’s utility poles and wires, an increase of 1,600 miles.
Meanwhile the state's new awaits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's signature.