by Max Brantley
I remarked that NLR had seemed less affected by power outages during the winter storm than Little Rock. He mentioned that a devastating experience in 2000 had encouraged aggressive right of way maintenance in the years since in North Little Rock. He said that could have reduced the impact of this year's storm in the city.
So I asked Julie Munsell of Entergy a question that several have asked about the year-round work of clearing of power line right of way. I confess that you most often hear about this topic when someone complains that the work has taken too much of a tree down, or trimmed it in an unsightly fashion. The quality of the work in terms of electricity service becomes an issue only in the emergencies.
We do prepare for storms year-round which includes trimming trees. While that preparation is extremely important during storms, the biggest influencing factor on any given storm is mother nature — where the storm strikes and what are the compounding elements such as ice, snow, and in this case wind. Over the last few years, we’ve stepped up vegetation management in part in direct response to issues such as drought. We currently spend $18-20 million dollars annually in this program.
I asked Munsell, too, about the cost of cleanup this year and how it will affect ratepayers, who pay the cost.
We don’t yet have a cost estimate for this storm. Every storm is different, but we can look at past storms for a general point of reference which does indicate we will exceed the reserve funding that is set aside. For example, we are recovering costs from the 2009 ice storm. The total recovery cost is $126.3 million which comes out to $.92 [monthly] for a typical residential bill.
I mentioned that some news accounts, in talking with her, had seemed to suggest Entergy would absorb repair costs, as opposed to customers. She wrote back:
If the impression was conveyed through other media accounts that cost recovery would not be an issue, that was certainly not my intention. I appreciate you asking me directly for clarification.
So let there be light. By the way, Entergy has declared the repair work complete for "those who can accept power." Which means some homes have damage that prevent resumption of power service and thus remain in the dark, but all distribution lines and other circuits have been restored.