Power Outage 2011

Once again the extreme conditions of New Hampshire left thousands of us (myself included) for several days without power.  Sitting in the dark for nearly a week without TV, computers or even enough light to read a book leaves one with a lot of time to think.

As I scrambled to get information on my town and when I'd have power again one thing was clear, PSNH sucks!  I blame this on their being a monopoly with no competition, thus there's no need to improve.  Why bother when you have no competition and you deliver a required product that people need?

That's not to say all power companies suck, PSNH seems to be the worst of any I've had to do business with in the places I've lived.

Why do I think they suck?  It comes down to two specific reasons.

First is communication during crises like this one we're just getting over.

Take a look at the site National Grid provides their customers found HERE.  You can see right down to the street level where the problems are, how many customers are impacted and even shaded areas showing the overall impact of some of the line breaks.

My power went out between 9 and 10 PM Saturday night and it wasn't until late in the afternoon on Tuesday that PSNH had any kind of listings showing where the known power outages were.  I was getting text messages from my local fire department saying that if PSNH is unaware of any lines down that we should report them, how would I even know which ones they were aware of since there was nothing posted anywhere?  And when I tried calling them to ask I received a standard automated message that told me nothing.

Finally on Tuesday we received the much anticipated list which was nothing more then a list of towns with a date/time for when they expected 95% restoration and when they expected 99% restoration.  Merrimack was listed at 4 PM on the 4th for 95% and midnight on the 4th for 99%.  The office building I worked in and my house are both located in Merrimack and both were without power, judging by that little information that was given I wasn't sure if I should drive to a relatives house in New York for the week or if by chance I would get power before Friday.  As it turned out, my office had power restored late Wednesday and my house was restored Thursday around 4 PM.  Even late Thursday night after power had been restored I heard several of my neighbors still running generators because they had no idea the power had been turned back on.

The second reason I give for their sucking is their lack of preparation.  This is the 3rd time a big storm left thousands in New England without power.  Why not prepare putting the ground crews and out of state backup crews on stand by prior to big storms?

There have been some discussions that they should be doing more trimming back trees but since many trees are in private yards it raises a question of private property and your rights ending where mine begin etc.  That could be opened up to a whole debate in and of itself.

The fact is though they were caught yet again with their pants down.  There was no updates on what they were working on until Tuesday afternoon a full 3 days into the power outage problems.  And crews coming down from Canada to help apparently didn't start down until Monday, why when the problem happened Saturday night did it take that long to call in help?

One additional suggestion I would make is that they should immediately start working with local towns by looking not just at where they were hardest hit but what parts of town do not have access to town water lines or natural gas lines and put them up as higher priorities since it creates unsanitary conditions if you can't even flush your toilets.

As I said already though, PSNH is a monopoly with no competition so while I can bitch and complain all I want I don't see any improvements being made until technology comes along that will allow us to have the power we need in our homes from a different source or until the government forces change through anti trust laws.