PSEG Long Island was unable to meet their self-imposed deadline to fix communication system issues that led to poor performance during Tropical Storm Isaias a year ago. A Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) report found that all of those problems were preventable, and even though their service provider made upgrades, the system is considered “antiquated.”
LIPA has been reviewing its service contract with PSEG Long Island after Isaias last August. The utility company proposed a plan to upgrade its hardware to better communicate outages to customers by May 2021. They missed that deadline.
PSEG Long Island is operating a system that only one other utility company in the country is still running — it’s parent company in New Jersey. Now, LIPA and Long Island customers want there to be a considerable fix before the hurricane season ends in November.
“The Department of Public Service and our own LIPA Isaias task force concluded that all of the problems that were experienced with the IT and technical systems during the storm and the restoration were ultimately management failures and entirely preventable,” LIPA CEO Tom Falcone said. “And under that, both the Department of Public Service and this board adopted the recommendation that we should either seek to terminate that contract or renegotiate it.”
LIPA could choose to stay with PSEG Long Island, or replace its contract with one or more utility companies to provide service to different parts of the region.
Public power advocates rallied outside of LIPA headquarters on Wednesday morning to demand that the authority end its contract with PSEG Long Island and take on electric distribution themselves.
“Don’t delay another hour, we need public power! Don’t delay another hour, we need public power!” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer with Long Island Progressive Coalition, led electric customers, NAACP chapters and lawmakers in chants about the failures of the private utility company.
Madden calls municipalization of distribution a “people-first” public power authority. He said during public hearings last month, customers told LIPA they are fed up with the high utility rates and poor service.
The path forward might be greener
LIPA and its service provider will begin studying cost-effective ways to meet the state’s clean energy goals of generating 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2040, under the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
State law also requires 70% of electricity to be from renewable energy sources by 2030.
The study to diversify the regional electric grid is expected in 2022. LIPA already expects generation on Long Island to transition to a mix that is “increasingly dominated by offshore wind,” while its moves to electrify transportation and heating in the region and eliminating Long Island’s dependence on fossil-fueled generation.
Paul Napoli, PSEG Long Island’s vice president of power markets, said in a statement that customers will need to be provided “cost-effective, reliable electric service.”
Included in the report will be a study of the impacts to disadvantaged communities for “environmental justice empowerment.”