FPL: Spreading the Blame
Florida Power and Light, who is not my favorite utitlity entity at the moment, who oversaw the loss of power to 3.5 million customers during hurricane Wilma (a brief, expected Category 1 event), and who just sought and received permission to raise its rates 20%, has been trying to determine why so many poles failed during the storm. After careful study, they have determined the culprit: BellSouth.
Preliminary results have sparked a growing argument about who bears — or shares — responsibility for South Florida’s largest power outage ever. FPL’s reports suggest BellSouth may hold a large responsibility. [snip] …28 percent of those [poles] studied — were creosote-treated. More than half of these (52 percent) were BellSouth poles, the FPL engineers reported. ”The majority of these poles [88 percent] had some amount of weathering/deterioration but we do not know if that was the main cause of failure as some of these were next to good . . . poles that also broke,” the report said.
Check the math – FPL’s attribution of “a large responsibility” to BellSouth applies to 14% of the total poles.
There was a lot of discussion about burying power lines and whatnot to reinforce the grid, but at this point I fully expect FPL to let its customers eat cake to whatever extent they can do so without the legislature disbanding them or taking them over. There’s already talk of making the PSC board an elected body, an idea being pursued by Attorney General Charlie Crist.
Something I haven’t seen yet, though, is to subsidize efforts to get off the grid. Solar panels did very well during the storm and South Florida would seem like a natural place for them – imagine heavy rebates for purchase and installation with money from FEMA. Of course, that would bite into FPL profits. Which, to me, would make it worth doing just for sport.