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Upgrading CL&P Power Grid to Cost $2.2 Billion

HARTFORD, Conn. – It would cost $2.2 billion over 10 years to upgrade power lines and infrastructure to achieve even a 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in power outages and restoration time, Connecticut Light & Power Co. officials told Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Two-Storm Panel at its final public hearing Wednesday.

That would mean escalating rate hikes, culminating in about a $13 monthly increase for the average customer by the time the upgrades were complete, or about $150 a year.

“CL&P officials made a presentation showing how it could improve the power grid with a combination of new, stronger wires, stronger poles, improved tree-trimming and underground wiring in key locations – particularly near hospitals, town centers and other vital centers,” said Joseph McGee, co-chairman of the Two-Storm Panel.

McGee, vice president of the Business Council of Fairfield County, said the plan would greatly improve the reliability of the power grid. A record 809,000 customers were plunged into the dark during the historic October nor’easter and more than 770,000 during Hurricane Irene in August.

Power restoration would also be sped up by two or three days, he said. Many lost power for more than a week during both storms.

“We realize people aren’t going to like paying higher bills, but right now our job is to make recommendations on how to keep power on for as many people as possible during severe storms and to get the power back on faster for those without it,” McGee said.

Nearly half of the state’s power lines and infrastructure have exceeded their 40-year lifespans – with some power lines and other equipment hitting the age of 70, CL&P engineering experts advised the panel.

William Hackett, interim deputy commissioner of the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, made a presentation Wednesday that included recommendations on how to better coordinate response and communications among the state, power companies and municipalities during weather disasters.

“One of the most important recommendations he made was that all parties involved come together for real-time practice training sessions that simulate circumstances during a major storm,” said McGee. “This is something many states have been doing for some time now, but we don’t do it in Connecticut. It will definitely be among the recommendations that must be implemented.”

McGee said the panel’s report will be presented to Malloy in mid-January.

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