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PECO braces for another bruiser

pecoWith prognostications of 6-14 inches of heavy, wet snow Wednesday night into Thursday — along with possible rain, sleet, and high winds — electricity provider PECO Energy is not taking any chances.

“We’ve kept our emergency response center fully activated from last week, and we have staffing on hand in storm function,” said PECO spokesperson Greg Smore. The company said last week that an additional 1,000 field workers were arriving (they normally maintain a repair staff of 1,500), but it seems that number went higher, as the company reports 1,150 extra repair crew on standby. That contingent would be even larger, were it not for a few crews from Southern states who were needed back home, according to Smore.

“We brought in crews from our affiliates in Chicago and Baltimore, too, and now that everything from the last storm has been restored, we’ve tried to keep as many of the crews on as possible,” he said.

The company was proactive in eliminating potential threats Wednesday, spending the day “removing hazard trees, looking at repairs we’ve made and hardening the system, making extra repairs to insure greater permanency, and looking for weakened trees and dangling limbs,” said Smore. “The environment is in a pretty weakened state. We’re seeing healthy trees being taken up by the roots.”

PECO certainly had its work cut out for it in last weeks ice storm: “More than 6,800 individuals worked around the clock replacing 465 poles, 73 miles of wire and 204 transformers to restore service to 715,000 PECO customers,” says a company press release. PECO is a subsidiary of Exelon, an energy producer/trader/distributor headquartered in Chicago. The corporation was created in 2000 by the merger of PECO Energy Company of Philadelphia and Unicom of Chicago. Exelon operates utilities in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

In October 2009, Exelon had full or majority ownership of 17 nuclear reactors in 10 nuclear power plants. Exelon conducts operations and business activities in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada, according to public records, and is the largest competitive U.S. power generator. The company has annual revenue of around $20 billion, and has $55 billion in assets.

Despite the company’s apparently solid finances, customers shouldn’t expect any financial compensation for being kept in the dark for nearly a week in some cases. Not only will they see no break on their bill, says the company, because energy wasn’t being consumed during the outage, but PECO also will not reimburse customers for hotel stays due to freezing homes. PECO considers themselves responsible only for physical damage that they could have prevented, says the company.

And should PECO take some of its $20 billion in assets and hire more repair persons, rather than waiting for out-of-state reinforcements, now that “storms of the century” are becoming commonplace? That might save precious days waiting for repair crew reinforcements from other states, but the answer to that question will have to wait for another day.

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Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

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