Eversource CEO (opinion): The hard work of keeping the power on

Eversource Energy CEO Joseph Nolan at the company's corporate office in Hartford on April 12, 2021.

Eversource Energy CEO Joseph Nolan at the company's corporate office in Hartford on April 12, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

Climate change is real. It’s producing larger, more intense storms and weather. And we’re seeing it right here in Connecticut.

We dodged a bullet on Henri — if the forecasts held it would have unleashed unprecedented damage for our cities and towns in Connecticut.

We used weather forecasts and damage prediction models to prepare for the storm’s potential impact — and we were ready to respond to power outages for up to 50-69% of our customers that would have taken 8-21 days to restore.

On behalf of all 4,500 Eversource employees and 1,700 contractors, I am compelled to address the careless rebuke (“Susan Campbell (opinion): Storms surge in CT, Eversource shrugs”) of the efforts needed to respond to the crushing impacts of storms brought to Connecticut’s doorstep by climate change.

I’ll be very direct.

If a Category 1 hurricane hits Connecticut, we’ll be ready to respond and Connecticut residents should be ready to be without power for one to three weeks — because that’s how long it’s going to take to get the power back on.

Power restoration is dangerous, physical work. It takes skill and courage to work with high-voltage, overhead electrical equipment and it takes time to do the work safely. Each repair we make to the system can take six to 12 hours, or even more than a day to repair. There were over 21,600 damage locations for our crews to repair following Isaias.

Our estimates of restoration times are mathematical. It’s a function of the extent of the damage, the number of repairs to make, and the time it takes our crews to complete each job.

The work can’t be rushed. Downed wires and emergencies take time to resolve because extreme caution must be exercised. It’s no different than emergency surgery, responding to an out-of-control fire or trying to land planes at a busy airport.

Customers cannot plan if they don’t know what to expect — and for that, they need to know the math. The suggestion that customers should retaliate to storm outages by not paying the bill is simply irresponsible.

Imagine how it feels to leave your own family without power for days on end, so that you can perform a job that very few people are capable or willing to do, knowing that not only is the job thankless, but you will hear for weeks and months later that your efforts failed customers because it took time to restore. You will be mocked or jeered or even worse when working your job day to day. Our employees do not deserve this. They deserve your respect.

We urge you to consider what the situation looks like from the other side of the room — from the view of employees who stake their personal safety on every job and never refuse the call to duty when the time comes — and raise your voice before the next huge storm to encourage your friends and neighbors to weather the storm safely and with respect for the task at hand.

Joe Nolan is president and CEO of Eversource.