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WASHINGTON, DC — I’m Vincent C. Gray, Mayor of the District of Columbia.
I’m sure many of you all have bad memories of losing electric power following any number of severe-weather events the District has experienced over the years. Most recently, many of our residents spent multiple days without lights and air conditioning following the severe derecho storm we experienced in late June of last year.
This is an experience that has been repeated far too often in recent years for residents in the outer areas of the District, where many power lines are above ground. At the time, I called for a “game-changer” in our power grid’s ability to recover quickly from these kinds of storms as well as other extreme weather events. After all, tens of thousands of people in the nation’s capital shouldn’t be subjected to days and even weeks of hardship just because of a severe thunderstorm.
That’s why last August I announced the creation of the Mayor’s Power Line Undergrounding Task Force. I demanded action – and, last week, I was proud to join members of the task force and our partners from Pepco in announcing recommendations that would place the District of Columbia in the vanguard of states working to strengthen their electric utility infrastructure.
The task force proposed a solution that would leverage a unique public-private partnership to place underground what utility companies call “mainline feeders” and “laterals.” These lines deliver power to neighborhoods, and have been the source of many of our most widespread and long-lasting outages.
This is the preferred scenario of several approaches that the task force studied, because it provides the best balance between cost and improvement in reliability. The total project is estimated to cost about $1 billion, and will be complete in approximately seven years. Pepco would fund up to $500 million of the project, covering their costs with a modest surcharge. And the District will do our part by leveraging hundreds of millions of dollars in financing through municipal bonds and funds that our District Department of Transportation was already going to spend on planned street improvements where the undergrounding will take place.
When it’s all done, customers on the newly undergrounded lines would see, in total, a 97 percent decrease in the frequency of outages and a 92 percent decrease in the duration of outages.
This is, in a word, historic. This is the first time of which I’m aware that a local municipality and a utility provider are jointly petitioning their Public Service Commission to make this level of improvement to a power grid. And the leader of the district’s Public Service Commission (PSC) as well as our consumer advocate are both on board with these recommendations, because PSC Chair Betty Ann Kane and District People’s Counsel Sandra Mattavous-Frye served as crucial members of the task force.
I want to thank them, the other members, and the task force co-chairs – City Administrator Allen Lew and Pepco Holdings CEO Joseph Rigby – for their hard work to get this done. This is a real win for the District – and will produce real results in a short period of time for our residents and businesses.
Thank you very much. I’m Vincent C. Gray, Mayor of the District of Columbia.
Credit Photo :Andrew Bossi