Tropical Storm Isaias spent less than two hours in Morris Township… but left thousands of residents without power for days.
At one point, 63 percent of the municipality lacked electricity. Jersey Central Power & Light must do better, according to the Township’s governing body, which on Thursday asked state officials to mandate utility investments in smart technology, better communication about restoration times, and reimbursement to residents for perishables that spoiled during outages.
Joining critics from across the state, the Township Committee blasted JCP&L for insufficient preparation and manpower and a “haphazard” response to the Aug. 4, 2020, storm. The local officials called for a more vigorous tree-pruning program and the relocation of power lines from overhead to underground, among other things.
“We urge the BPU to identify best practices in power grid management from across the country as well as elsewhere in the world, and work towards implementing those best practices here in Morris County,” the Committee said in a letter to Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of the state Board of Public Utilities.
The letter was copied to JCP&L President James V. Fakult and Charles E. Jones, CEO of parent company First Energy Corp. The full text is below.
From the Morris Township Committee:
- Providing More Reliable Real-time Information to both Municipal Authorities and Customers: During past storms, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) has been able to provide proper estimated times for restoration (ETR) for municipalities to share with residents or directly to customers. During Tropical Storm Isaias, this was not the case. We request better due diligence when it comes to the service providers providing more timely information to municipal authorities and improve efforts in communicating reasonable ETRs to customers.
- Storm Preparedness: JCP&L has worked over the past year trimming back and removing at-risk trees from harming our power lines. We clearly need to do more to address the ongoing problems of persistent outages as a result of at-risk trees falling on power lines. Unfortunately, when the storm hit, JCP&L was not prepared and did not have enough manpower in place. Therefore, we request the BPU review FirstEnergy’s use of regional agreements and provide feedback on ways to improve response times, the allocation of resources, and activation before and after storms.
- Storm Response: From the municipal perspective, JCP&L’s response was haphazard. It took days to have sufficient manpower on the scene. While we are grateful that they were able to call in workers from other states, we heard anecdotal stories that many were working off of old-fashioned paper, that many trucks sat idle for periods of times at staging areas and after jobs were complete because the ticketing system was in disarray. In this hi-tech era, JCP&L should have a technology solution that is appropriate for 2020 and not a system that is antiquated.
- Fairness for Customers: As many of our colleagues from across the state have voiced thus far, we request that utility providers reimburse certain customers for the cost of food, medication, and other perishables for those who lost power for more than 48 hours. To many seniors on fixed incomes and those with low or moderate income, losing groceries and other perishables as a result of a loss of power for an extended time can be burdensome on their finances.
- Investing in Critical Infrastructure: Last year, JCP&L shared with the Township Committee and our residents their efforts to improve their regional infrastructure. It is clear that further improvements are necessary including:
- Accelerating the installation of “TripSaver” smart reset devices
- Improving the resiliency of substations to extreme weather conditions
- Investing in the next generation of smart utility poles and other “smart” technology
- Improved assessment systems that can more accurately and rapidly determine key disruption locations that would allow for better estimates of restoration times
- Installing underground service lines in critical and vulnerable areas to bring more stability to the power grid