Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Response to John Bank's April 1st JN Opinion Piece

Con ED insists that the aggressive “trimmings”on the ROW, is mandated by the Public Service Commission to insure reliability. Yet what I learned after doing some reading is that Con Edison has systemic managerial, infrastructure and procedural issues that impede system readiness and operating reliability. There will always be trees, tree contact and outages. It would seem that the key to "electrical reliability" lays in the emergency response systems, not in eliminating every tree.

The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force: Final Report on Implementation of Recommendations states that there were a number of causes for the 2003 blackout. While it was initially triggered in Ohio by conductors coming into contact with tree limbs, it stated that these trees were in direct contact with power lines and had not been adequately managed.

The report further states that “Inadequate reactive supply was a factor in most of the events.” and “the assumed contribution of dynamic reactive output of system generators was greater than the generators actually produced, resulting in more significant voltage problems.” In other words the backup generators were not adequate to handle the amperage load or voltage needed. A lack of coordination of System Protection Programs(relays tripping), inadequate communication between Utilities, and lack of "training of operating personnel in dealing with severe system disturbances" were also noted in the report as causes for the blackout.

In his Letter to the Editor, Mr. Banks, states “An independent report followed, indicating the most important element of any utility's electric reliability is a tree-trimming and vegetation-management program, which, the report noted, is especially true here.”

I read the report that Mr. Banks refers to. It was prepared by Vantage Consulting issued on October 24, 2007, and if memory serves me the majority of the report clearly demonstrated Con Ed's lack of understanding of it's own internal short fallings when it comes to emergency response. In fact, if I remember correctly, it suggests that Con Ed did not and still may not have a structured master plan and strategy for reliability and emergency preparedness. The report calls for reorganization, training, new personnel when necessary and much, much more.

In a letter dated March 26, 2010, Steven Blow Records Access Officer of the Public Service Commission, stated that “in general, the transmission system reliability is near 100 percent.” Moreover he states that “with respect to outages due to vegetation, the utilities are required, pursuant to ordering clause 8 of the Commission's Order in Case 04-E-0822 (issued June 20, 2005), to file an annual report (by March 31) of any vegetation-related outages. Con Edison has reported that such an outage occurred in 2008 near the Wheelabrator generating station in Peekskill.” After reading the report, the data suggests to me that the transmission system had 100 percent reliability prior to the PSC’s Enhanced Vegetation Management plan was implemented. The tree in Peekskill grew off the ROW and perhaps if the trees had not been clear cut, they would have broken the fall and prevented the tree from touching the wires.

In a Yonkers Town hall meeting last Thursday evening, the most important moment for me was when David Morrell from the Public Service Commission, clearly stated that the PSC does not mandate Clear Cutting. Moreover, I learned that the diagram that Con Ed has posted on it’s web site is not the model for your ROW vegetation management plan. This seems very deceptive. I also learned, that there are no guidelines, clearly stating distances from the towers or the heights of trees. It would seem, Con Ed is left to maintain the ROW in a very subjective way. It was very clear to all of us that the scorching activity was a cost cutting measure for Con Ed.


Amy Kupferberg
Hartsdale, NY

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