Eversource Rep Addresses Greater Danbury Power Outages + Rate Hikes
As of this morning, NBC CT reports that 450,000 CT Eversource customers are without power.
Over the past ten days, Lou and I have reached out to the Eversource Media Department several times to extend interview opportunities and had not heard back. Early in the morning, Lou left them a scathing voicemail and like magic, they called us back in ten minutes.
The interview was granted and we were joined by Frank Poirot, an Eversource Media Executive. These are the things he had to say:
Lou: "So, many CT residents are out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, how does your company justify the attempt at the rate hike last month?"
Frank: "As we might have explained early, first of all, that was approved by the State more than a year ago, long before COVID-19 struck our area and the country. So, that wasn't part of the thinking, it was also primarily due to a power purchase agreement with Millstone and that's pretty much what's driving it right now."
Lou (interupts): "So it was planned before the storm hit, that I can understand, but a lot of companies, major corporations all throughout America, pivoted during the pandemic to lessen the burden on their customers. Why didn't Eversource take that position?"
Frank: "Well, we're gonna find out, we're going to participate in the PURA (Public Utilities Regulatory Authority) process that will take a second hard look at that rate."
Lou: "Let me tell you the communities you are speaking to right now Danbury, CT, Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, New Milford, New Fairfield. There's a bunch more, but that's essentially the Greater Danbury Area. When is the power coming back? It says, according to NBC CT, this morning 450,000 CT customers are without power. What about our area?"
Frank: "The vast majority of all of our customers will be restored by noon, uh, by Tuesday and we'll have more specific town by town restoration estimates soon."
Ethan: "It seems to a lot of our listeners, in fact, thousands of people, that there just was no plan for a storm, but that was just no secret to anyone. How would you describe your company's pre-storm preparation. I mean, what goes into that?"
Frank: "We started days before the storm arrived and we put on hold a number of mutual aid crews from out of state. We did that probably two days before the storm arrived and as the storm was striking our state and, by the way, just hitting the Western Connecticut area particularly hard, we had crews out, hundreds of crews out doing restoration for as long as it was safe. As you know with high winds, guys up in buckets, twenty feet off the ground can be potentially dangerous, so they brought them down on Tuesday as the winds increased and then, went back to work restoring customers right after that."
Lou: "Would you feel anything personally if you knew someone died because your company couldn't get out here and get power restored?"
Frank: "That's what keeps me awake at night and that's why we harp so much on staying away from live lines, and staying away from any line that's on the ground. The risk of injury or worse is great. I've seen, and maybe you have too, what a live electric line does when it hits the ground. When I was in West Brookfield during the Tornadoes a year or two ago, it literally melted dirt."
Lou: "The Mayor of Danbury, again, had another quote the other day in which he said, "The CEO makes $19 million a year and he can't keep the lights on". You guys all reported record revenue last quarter. Is it your belief that your company needs to put more money into human resources and planning and less in the pockets of the executives of the company?"
Frank: "That's a budget decision that we can't make. We make all of our spending, and all of our spending decisions are made in concert with the State regulators and, uh, as well as some of the bigger transmission work is overseen by, the spending anyways that we're seeing by Federal authorities. So, it's not a unilateral decision that's made by strictly the company. And in the past, we've spent, and we continue to spend quite a bit of money on bolstering and hardening our distribution system and our transmission system, which are the highline...."
Lou (interrupts): "Yeah, Frank, I'm just asking your opinion, listen, you are a New England guy, how many years did Tom Brady say, 'I'll take a paycut every single year so that the team can win', don't you wanna win?"
Frank: "Well, we want our customers to win and that's just not uh, but that's just not the way it's done. Tom Brady doesn't have to go to a State entity and ask permission to do one thing or the other with his salary....."
Lou (interrupts): "I'm just asking if you think the executives could take less money to put more money in human resources and planning."
Frank: "Well, taking it back to the Tom Brady analogy, you know, you're not gonna get a good quarterback at minimum wage."
Lou: "19 million dollars a year is not minimum wage, it's not even a fair, it's not close to a fair comparison."
Lou: "Is Eversource a monopoly?"
Frank: "Well, we and other utilities in Connecticut are, we do have service territories that we are the only ones that distribute electricity into. You also have United Illuminating and there are municipal utilities in Norwalk and Norwich so, among others."
Lou: "But, in Danbury, CT, I decided I didn't like the way you handled this storm, could I disconnect my power and call somebody up and have somebody else do it?"
Frank: "There are systems for providing electricity to your home or business off the grid."
Lou: "Meaning what?"
Frank: "Meaning, generators that operate on natural gas.."
Lou (interrupts): "So, alternative energy?"
Frank: "Exactly, well, it's not alternative it's pretty conventional stuff..."
Lou (interrupts): "Alright, it's conventional to get electricity what we deem as the traditional way, you're the only game in town."
Frank: "Well, yes and no, if I decided to take my house off the grid, let's see the generator for that would probably start at around twelve grand, somewhere around there and I'd have to figure out a fuel system for it as well."
Thank you to Frank Poirot for joining the show.
To listen to the full interview, see below: