Sierra Club says utilities profit from blackouts

There are still 300,000 people in New Jersey without power; 100,000 in North Jersey alone. There are still people out of power from the last storm.

The winter storms from the last few weeks have left many downed power lines in their wake.

The people of our state continue to pay rate increases yet see the same problems.

Some communities have no electricity, heat, or even water, putting citizens in danger and hurts our economy.

“Despite all the talk and money supposedly spend on upgrades, every time we have a storm the grid seems to fail,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We keep having more blackouts even though we’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars on programs such as PSEG’s failed Energy Strong and other resiliency projects. Instead of making the grid more resilient, these companies make money by fixing the same problems repeatedly.”

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. This shows that the grid is vulnerable not only to the storm, but to failed policies by the utilities. These constant power outages put people and communities at risk and damages our economy,” said Tittel.

“We need our utilities to undertake major updates like in the wake of all the extreme weather events we have experienced, but to fund them responsibly. This should include replacing older and vulnerable lines and putting lines underground to prevent blackouts in the first place. Some of these lines fall down every year,” said Tittel.. “Every time a line goes down, the companies make more money fixing the line rather than redoing it underground where it would be safer.”

“They get a 12-14% return and can charge overtime. They won’t make this kind of money if the lines are underground,” said Tittel. “Their bondholders should be paying for these improvements, not the ratepayers. The utilities failed to protect the power lines and electrical infrastructure in the first place and are now rebuilding key infrastructure in the same vulnerable areas.

“These companies have failed to do anything to make the grid more resilient and prevent brown outs and black outs,” said Tittel. “These companies keep building more large power lines while neglecting the smaller lines.”

“Enhancement and reliability projects that cut down trees don’t do anything to strengthen the grid,” said Tittel. “They make more money fixing the damage on utility poles that get knocked down by storms. It would be better to bury lines in these areas but then the companies wouldn’t make as much money that way.”

“The greed of the utility companies should not overshadow the needs and safety of the people of New Jersey,” said Tittel. “Instead of building big power lines everywhere, we should be investing in better technology. This includes energy efficiency, microgrids, distributed generation, and renewable energy like solar.”

“Microgrids especially help protect us against blackouts. We also need to make updates to the grid so the next time a storm comes, we can use stored energy to prevent power outages. We need to be able to store renewable energy at all times, like at night or when the wind isn’t blowing,” said Tittel. “Energy storage is critical to move renewable energy forward and prevent blackouts and brownouts. We’re moving into the 21st century but we still have a grid and local distribution system that was designed in the 1890’s. It’s time to start living in the future.”

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