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CL&P's Infrastructure Is Showing Its Age

HARTFORD, Conn. – Nearly half of Connecticut Light & Power Co.'s electrical infrastructure has exceeded its 40-year lifespan – with some power lines and other equipment hitting the age of 70, CL&P engineering experts advised state officials.

And they said it would cost $3 billion to bring the system up to date.

Those were among the findings presented Wednesday to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Two-Storm Panel investigating how the state can better prepare for future storms after the prolonged power outages from Hurricane Irene and the historic October nor'easter.

"As daunting a job and as costly that sounds, there are things that can be done to start the process of bringing the infrastructure up to date," said Joseph McGee, the panel's co-chairman and vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County.

Daniel C. Esty, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, also told the panel that burying all utility lines underground and hardening the entire electrical grid would be far too costly.

Instead, Esty said, building a backup micro-grid to provide power to critical services such as public safety hubs and sewage treatment plants would be more cost effective and ensure that power stays on at these sites during severe weather.

"We know now that the idea of burying all lines underground statewide is far too expensive and impractical, but that hardening the grid and infrastructure and creating backup systems to vital services is crucial," McGee said.

"There are also a wide range of things the power companies can do to improve the resiliency of the existing power lines and infrastructure," said McGee. "That includes installing different types of wire, stronger wire and developing micro-grids that can ensure power stays on during even worse storms than the two we experienced in late August and October."

McGee said that could be essential: The panel learned that a Category 3 Hurricane could knock out power across state for more than a month. "A Category 3 hurricane would be a catastrophe for the state of Connecticut," he said. "But at least we are starting to understand what it will take to be better prepared."

CL&P officials will present an extensive plan on how it intends to upgrade its electrical infrastructure during the panel's final public session Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

"What we have learned during these sessions is quite sobering," said McGee. "The two storms have provided a major wakeup call."

McGee said after the panel's last public session next week, it will meet privately to prepare a final report with recommendations to present to the governor in mid-January.

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