In a tense, at times combative press conference Tuesday evening CL&P President Jeff Butler said that the company was sticking by its estimate that it would be able to restore power to 99 percent of its customers throughout the state by Sunday.
Butler, who joined United Illuminating Spokesman Bill Reis and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a press conference at the State Armory in Hartford Tuesday evening, said that CL&P’s primary focus since was on “public health and safety issues,” such as clearing live or downed wires from roadways, but that the utility had made “substantial progress in those areas” and that it was adding more contracted work crews daily and now planned to focus the majority of its efforts on restoration work.
“With the additional crews that we’re adding and have arrived today, with more arriving tomorrow, we’re shifting our area of focus on restoration,” Butler said. “…We expect to see a significant increase in restoration rates as we shift.”
Butler said that CL&P had restored more than 275,000 customers as of Tuesday, but that approximately 650,000 still remained in the dark. He said that CL&P currently had 493 line crews – 172 from CL&P, the additional 321 outside contractors – and 393 tree crews working throughout the state, and would ramp up to 627 line crews by Wednesday, 777 by Thursday, and 837 by Friday, with an outstanding request for 300-plus additional crews from wherever the utility could find them.
When asked, Butler stood by the company’s assertion that it would have 99 percent of powerless customers restored by Sunday.
“We’re still shooting to have 99 percent of our customers restored sometime Sunday,” Butler said. “…That’s what we’re pushing for, and I’ll bring whatever crews necessary as they are available to meet that target.”
Reis, a United Illuminating executive, said his company had restored approximately 50,000 customers as of Tuesday and that it planned to restore the utility’s remaining 1,800 customers still without power by midnight Tuesday.
“We will work throughout the night to restore all known customer outages,” Reis said. “We encourage our customers to call UI if they still have an outage after 9 p.m. tonight at 800-722-5584.”
Reis said UI it would then turn over its available crews to CL&P to aid in their restoration efforts.
Even Malloy conceded that he was frustrated by the utilities restoration efforts and that they were “not nearly fast enough,” but said that the primary emphasis currently was on restoring power, and that after all Connecticut residents had their power restored would be the time for his administration and lawmakers to “analysis” the utilities performance.
“Anybody who is without power, you can’t get power back soon enough,” Malloy said. “And since I’m the governor, I can’t get the utilities to get their power on soon enough. It is a frustrating experience, particularly when you understand that people are dealing with cold situations.”
The current state of emergency and widespread power outages come just two months after . It took more than a week for power to be restored to the entire state after that storm, and.
Butler began his remarks Tuesday by addressing a report that neighboring Massachusetts had more crews working on restoration efforts than Connecticut by stating that it was unfair to compare the two states because Massachusetts was nearly twice the size of Connecticut, and by noting the number of contractor crews the utility had imported to deal with the outages, which he said would probably add up to more than 1,000 once all restoration work was completed.
Butler also addressed a report that CL&P was having trouble commissioning crews because it still had not paid outside work crews from Irene by confirming that there were still three invoices outstanding from that storm, but that when he heard that “rumor” yesterday he contacted the companies and that two of those invoices were paid Monday, and he believed the final invoice would be paid Wednesday.
He said he did not know the extent of the amount owed but that he was “not aware that it has been an issue” with securing contractor crews for the current storm.
When asked if CL&P’s current contingent of 172 line restoration crews was sufficient to cover the CL&P’s more than 1.23 million electrical customers, Butler noted that Connecticut has one of the highest electrical rates in the nation and that the utility “continually looks at its staffing.”