The Connecticut House of Representatives on May 9 passed a bill that holds utilities accountable for their performance during emergencies, creating a pilot program to facilitate the installation of microgrids, or localized electricity generation, in such locations as police stations.
The House passed Senate Bill 23 in concurrence with the Senate, which passed the bill on May 5, according to the Office of the House Clerk.
The House voted unanimously on the bill on the last night of the session, the office told TransmissionHub May 10.
The bill is on its way to Gov. Dannel Malloy, who, according to a May 9 statement, introduced the legislative package.
“With these changes, we will institute tougher standards for utility companies and improve communication and training for state and local officials,” Malloy said in his statement. “We will also make necessary investments at the local level in new technology like microgrids, allowing our state to embrace a 21st century solution to an age-old problem.”
Malloy said he looks forward to signing the bill, noting, “We can’t know exactly what emergency is coming next, but we can learn from past experience and improve.”
As reported, the bill would establish a $15m micro-grid and loan pilot program to support local distributed electricity generation at hospitals, police and fire stations and water treatment plants, among other locations, according to a May 5 statement from state Senate President Donald Williams Jr., who helped lead the bill’s passage.
The bill also takes steps to facilitate the undergrounding of power and telecommunications lines. The bill would require the state Department of Transportation to notify the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) of any pending road work projects over five miles long or located in a commercial area. PURA would then review the possibility of undergrounding lines at that location and make recommendations to the relevant utility companies, the statement added.
Utility companies must develop and submit plans to PURA by July 1 for service restoration in emergencies and update them every two years afterwards.
The statement also noted that the bill would require PURA to study and then establish minimum performance standards for emergency preparation and response for each electric distribution and gas company in the state. The standards must address, among other things, minimum staffing and equipment levels for outage planning and restoration, targets for recovery and restoration of service based on the proportion of affected customers and communication between and amongst utilities and government officials.
Noncompliance with PURA’s performance standards could result in penalties of up to 2.5% of an electric or gas company’s annual distribution revenue, or about $25m in the case of Northeast Utilities’ (NYSE:NU) Connecticut Light and Power (CL&P), the statement added.
“We support Senate Bill 23,” a CL&P spokesperson told TransmissionHub May 10. “It is a fair bill. We worked with the governor’s office and the members of the Energy and Technology Committee on it. Once the governor signs it, the [PURA] will begin the process of developing those standards and we look forward to working with PURA on this next phase.”
The bill was precipitated by two storms that hit Connecticut in 2011, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity and telecommunications service, according to Williams’ statement.
“If companies can’t restore power in a timely manner, we’ll hold them financially accountable for their failures,” Williams said in the statement. “This bill takes the lessons learned from recent storm responses and will help ensure Connecticut residents’ health and safety are not needlessly put at risk.”
Article amended at 3:30 p.m., EST, May 10 to include comments from CL&P.