ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– Sixty days. That’s how long Gov. Martin O’Malley is giving state energy advisers to figure out a plan to improve Maryland’s electrical system. It comes following a series of storms that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands.
Monique Griego has more on what he’s asking them to look at.
The damage caused by the recent derecho rivaled that of a hurricane.
“Just branches everywhere, knocking things down,” Norman Neal, who lost power during the storm, said.
Trees crushed cars and took out countless electrical lines.
Neal’s Woodlawn neighborhood was part of the three-fourths of a million Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) customers left powerless for days.
“We’re used to it. It happens a lot. Every time we get a major storm this area goes out a lot,” Neal said.
The problem of widespread outages led the governor to issue an executive order giving state energy leaders 60 days to come up with an improved energy plan.
“What are the best ways that we can make our grid more resilient, we can strengthen our grid,” Abigail Hopper, Maryland’s energy advisor, said.
Hopper is assembling a team of government agencies to look into the cost and how to pay for improving infrastructure and burying some lines.
“Where do we keep having problems, which lines repeatedly are going down,” Hopper said.
In a exclusive interview this week, BGE’s president and chief executive officer (CEO) Ken DeFontes told WJZ the utility already has 65 percent of its system underground.
“But we still have 9,500 miles of overhead lines if we replace 200 miles of them a year. That’s a 50-year project,” DeFontes said. “I’m willing to do that but we also need to have an honest conversation on what’s going to be the impact on customer costs.”
Residents are hoping for any progress.
“Just give me some idea that your working on the problem. That’s the biggest thing,” Neal said.
After the 60 days is over, Hopper says her team will hand over written recommendations to the governor. Some changes could take effect immediately. Others may take time or require legislation.
The governor’s order is separate from and will not effect the Public Service Commission’s current investigation into how the utilities responded to the storm.