LETTER: Use Wilton’s Energy Commission to Find Solutions & Deal with Eversource

To the Editor:

I believe it is safe to say that most everyone in Wilton was extremely frustrated and angered by Eversource’s inadequate response to the mass power outage this past week. A lot of blame was being thrown around on social media. However, the root issue is simple. It is the way utilities across our nation are structured. It is time that we in Wilton look at creative solutions to gain more control as a community.

Eversource is not a government agency. It is a publicly-traded company that provides electric service to residential and business customers in CT, NH, and MA. Their first responsibility is to their shareholders. Since the early 20th century, utilities across the country have had monopoly ownership of the infrastructure that delivers power to its customers.

Since most of the communities in the northeast are sitting on bedrock, we can safely assume it is too cost-prohibitive to put the wires underground. Eversource has no financial incentive to do so when we only have a major outage once every five or so years (Irene 2011, Sandy 2012, Isaias 2020). Neither will property owners want to pay a special assessment to put the wires underground.

PURA, as our state’s regulatory agency, acts as a consumer advocate and regulates service rates with the provider’s right to a reasonable return on investment. PURA needs to be given a bigger regulatory stick to:

  1. Mandate that Eversource develop and implement a more comprehensive plan to promptly restore power and provide more timely status updates during unexpected and widespread outages.
  2. Assess stiff financial penalties for non-compliance

My understanding from the last Board of Selectmen meeting is that our First Selectwoman is considering downsizing our town’s all-volunteer Energy Commission as it does not have an active mandate. Maybe this is the time to consider re-invigorating the commission and giving it a new mandate to:

  1. Work with Eversource and PURA to make sure Eversource’s power restoration plans sufficiently meet the needs of our community as we are more vulnerable to these events given our tree density.
  2. Find ways we collectively can reduce our dependence on Eversource, our impact on the climate, and our energy costs.

Respectfully,

Melissa Spohn

1 COMMENT

  1. In this emotional time, it is great to read a well reasoned and valid argument on how we should use the tools at our disposal to make changes to our town’s relationship with Eversource. The cost plus era of utility management may have worked when utilities were smaller, but we have now lived through another example that a performance based system is sorely needed in this era of mega energy firms. Eversource’s information management system has proved lacking. We have now witnessed how downsizing the number of crews over the years needlessly delayed recovery. I believe PURA needs to be monitored and supervised. This is an excellent participatory task for our town’s Energy Commission. Melissa, thank you for the suggestion.

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