RI Officials: National Grid's October Storm Response Was Inadequate

Mar 27, 2018

National Grid's response to power outages caused by a major storm last October was too slow, causing a 36-hour delay in power restoration, according to a report released Monday by Rhode Island state regulators.

In late October, a storm with heavy rain and hurricane-force winds left more than 140,000 Rhode Islanders in the dark. It took National Grid five days to fully restore that power.

Macky McCleary, administrator of the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, said National Grid's response was inadequate because they reacted slower than other utilities in the region. 

"It took National Grid an additional 36 hours for crews to begin to arrive to Rhode Island where they were already working in Connecticut and places in Massachusetts, and as a result we then had to wait longer to get all the restorations completed," McCleary said. 

In an email, National Grid said weather forecasts underestimated the severity of the storm, but they were still able to restore power to 90 percent of their affected customers within 2 ½ days. The utility said it is looking forward to working with state regulators to improve performance.

McCleary added National Grid communicated power restoration estimates poorly to customers and responded slowly to the division's inquiries during its investigation for the report.  

The division is recommending National Grid review how it classifies major weather events by readjusting the ranges of expected customer interruptions during these types of storms, and making better use of its restoration estimation software. 

National Grid is required to implement the recommendations within the next 120 days and submit monthly progress reports to the division until completion. 

Other recommendations in the division's report include starting a community conversation around more aggressive tree trimming and vegetation management planning, and making accelerated investments in developing an advanced meter proposal to better-inform the grid operator about where power outages are. 

McCleary gave National Grid credit for having good communication with state and municipality emergency management crews during October's storm, and for improving their response to power outages during the snow storms earlier this month.