Following a series of major outages and repeated poor service, the Town of Chevy Chase, particularly then-Mayor Pat Burda, worked closely with Pepco to improve the reliability of electricity in the Town. I was still on the Town Council at that point and the Council adopted my suggestion to establish a Power Reliability Task Force to examine alternatives.
The residents on the Task Force did a bang up job of assessing various potential alternatives and coming up with a plan of action for the Town in their official report. I stepped down before the Task Force began its work; Councilmember Vicky Taplin worked with the Task Force’s seven members who produced this unusually clear yet informative assessment. The Town was lucky to have citizen volunteers with such amazing expertise.
As reported by mymcmedia, burying the power lines is an unaffordable $60 million–minimum. Even if the Town buried the lines, it would still have to keep up the poles to carry other utilities or also pay them to bury their lines, resulting in additional substantial costs. As disruption often occurs due to breaks outside the Town, it’s also not clear how much benefit the Town would gain.
Nevertheless, despite tree trimming and other good improvements by Pepco such as installing tree wire, the main feeder line that serves 73% of the Town’s residents remains among the 3% worst in the State. Ironically, as the report explains, this is a case where bad news is good news:
During the September meeting with Pepco, the Task Force learned there was a high probability that at least circuit 14867 would be on the 2014 worst performing list, and the Task Force heard in early January that this is the case. The result of such bad news is good news indeed: Pepco will now undertake a systematic upgrade of this line in 2015. Work will be planned in the first quarter of the year, and should be executed in the second and third quarters. The Task Force therefore expects that the nearly three quarters of town residents on this line should see further improvements in reliability in 2016, following the completion of this up grade program.
The good news is that power reliability across Pepco’s broader service area has improved, though work still needs to be done to get to an acceptable level of reliability. My belief is that strong demands by residents played a key role in getting Pepco to address belatedly the serious decline in service reliability. Citizen watchdogs like Powerup Moco help make sure it doesn’t happen again.