Md. Commission Orders Power Utilities to Improve - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Md. Commission Orders Power Utilities to Improve

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(Photo: CBS) (Photo: CBS)

BALTIMORE (WBOC/AP)- The Maryland Public Service Commission says electric utilities need to "harden" distribution systems to improve reliability following last summer's derecho, in which nearly 1 million customers lost power.

In a decision released Wednesday, the PSC noted a "significant and unsatisfactory disconnect" between the public's expectations of how reliable the system should be and the ability of the system to meet those expectations.

The commission also says utilities must be more responsive to outages that occur after severe storms. And it says the companies must improve communications, review staffing levels and develop strategies to address the needs of the medically fragile and the elderly.

Maryland was among several Mid-Atlantic states affected by the June 29 storm, which brought with it powerful straight-line winds from the Midwest. The storm caused extensive outages to customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Delmarva Power & Light Company, Potomac Electric Power Company, the Potomac Edison Company, Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc. and Choptank Electric Cooperative. The PSC said that at its peak, approximately 992,000 customers across Maryland experienced outages.

"I heard some real horror stories from the Western Shore right around the D.C. area, where people were out for at least a week," said Mark Elliot of Cambridge.

Fallen trees or limbs that interfered with overhead distribution lines accounted for approximately 32 million hours of service interruption.

Despite the PSC's decision, some people say when you take into consideration the magnitude of last year's derecho, electric utilities can only do so much.  

"Realistically at times it's almost impossible with weather conditions and the number of crews, cutbacks, and just the sheer population, volume makes it difficult sometimes to restore the service in a timely fashion," said Deborah Rowe of Cambridge.

Editor's note: WBOC's Steven Fisher contributed to this report.

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