The five-member Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved rules requiring Florida’s investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) to cost-effectively strengthen, or storm harden, the state’s electric infrastructure. Each IOU will be required to file storm-hardening plans, updated every three years, for Commission approval. Each plan must address such factors as the effect of extreme wind, flooding, and storm surges on electric facilities. The plans must identify critical infrastructure and the utility’s deployment strategy for strengthening electric service in their service areas.
In preparing their storm-hardening plans, electric utilities are expected to work hand-in-hand with other utilities, such as telephone and cable companies, which share poles. The costs and benefits to both electric utilities and third-party attachers will be considered by the Commission in approving the storm-hardening plans.
“These storm hardening plans are an important part of the Commission’s ongoing initiative to further a ‘Culture of Preparedness’ for Florida by evaluating the resiliency of our electric infrastructure and addressing measures to reduce outages and restoration time,” said Chairman Lisa Polak Edgar. Other Commission actions taken this year to address the affects of future hurricanes and other extreme weather events include requiring investor-owned electric companies to accelerate tree trimming cycles, develop more detailed storm data, strengthen existing transmission structures, initiate collaborative university research on the effects of extreme winds and storm surges on electric facilities, and increase coordination with local governments to facilitate more effective communication on an ongoing basis. Additionally, investor-owned electric companies and local telephone companies are required to inspect their wooden distribution poles once every eight years.