The nation's electric utility trade groups have a message for people up and down the East Coast, thanks to Sandy
: Get ready for extended power failures.
As the storm batters the eastern seaboard and millions are expected to lose power, Amy Harder
and Olga Belogolova report
on the industry advocates' view.
[President] Obama's comments echo what the Edison Electric Institute, the country's biggest electric utility trade group, warned in a statement on Sunday. "We strongly urge customers to prepare for the possibility of extended outages due to the enormity of Hurricane Sandy, which forecasters predict may be the worst storm to hit the Northeast in 100 years," Brian Wolff, EEI's senior vice president, said in a statement.
The utility industry has had plenty of practice for this week's superstorm. At the end of June, a fast-moving "derecho" storm knocked out power for 4.3 million customers in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, and in the summer of 2011, Hurricane Irene blacked out 6 million homes and businesses in the East. In an ominous sign of things to come, Sandy is already considered much worse--and much bigger--than Irene.
After Irene, between 30,000 and 50,000 utility line workers were involved in the cleanup and power-restoration effort, according to EEI President Tom Kuhn. Utilities must strike a delicate balance between ensuring they have the resources to respond adequately to major storms like Sandy and also keeping electricity rates low.
"It is not realistic for customers to expect perfect service during significant weather events when they also want their rates kept low," said Christine Tezak, a senior analyst at the Washington-based ClearView Energy Partners.
There's also the issue of the nuclear power plants that are in the storm's path.
Sandy is raising concerns about more than a dozen nuclear power plants that are in its projected path. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking precautions by sending additional inspectors to sites likely to be impacted by the hurricane in order to supplement the full-time personnel already there.
And while many are concerned about traditional power sources like electricity, wind turbines are also in Sandy's path.
"Wind turbines are designed specifically to harness the wind, but they are also designed to withstand it," said Ellen Carey, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. "Modern wind turbines utilize several techniques to reduce the likelihood of harm."
There you have it, folks.