Wilton letter: PURA needs backing to stand up to Eversource
To the Editors:
I believe it is safe to say that most everyone in Wilton was extremely frustrated and angered by EverSource’s inadequate response to the mass power outage this past week. A lot of blame was being thrown around on social media. However the root issue is simple. It is the way utilities across our nation are structured. It is time that we in Wilton look at creative solutions to gain more control as a community.
Eversource is not a government agency. It is a publicly traded company that provides electric service to residential and business customers in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Their first responsibility is to their shareholders. Since the early 20th century, utilities across the country have had monopoly ownership of the infrastructure that delivers power to its customers.
Since most of the communities in the Northeast are sitting on bedrock, we can safely assume it is too cost prohibitive to put the wires underground. Eversource has no financial incentive to do so when we only have a major outage once every five or so years (Irene 2011, Sandy 2012, Isaias 2020). Neither will property owners want to pay a special assessment to put the wires underground.
PURA (Public Utilities Regulatory Agency) as our state’s regulatory agency acts as a consumer advocate and regulates service rates with the provider’s right to a reasonable return on investment. PURA needs to be given a bigger regulatory stick to:
Mandate that Eversource develop and implement a more comprehensive plan to promptly restore power and provide more timely status updates during unexpected and widespread outages.
Assess stiff financial penalties for non-compliance.
My understanding from the last Board of Selectmen meeting is that our first selectwomen is considering downsizing our town’s all volunteer Energy Commission as it does not have an active mandate. Maybe this is the time to consider re-invigorating and giving the commission a new mandate to:
Work with Eversource and PURA to make sure Eversource’s power restoration plans sufficiently meet the needs of our community as we are more vulnerable to these events given our tree density.
Find ways we collectively can reduce our dependence on Eversource, our impact on the climate and our energy costs.