Credit Where Credit is Due: Thank You Dominion Virginia Power!

Monday, July 2, 2012

As readers of this blog, and Raising Kaine before it, are undoubtedly aware, we haven't exactly been big fans of Dominion Virginia Power, largely for reasons related to the company's lack of aggressiveness in moving away from dirty, carbon-and-other-pollutant-spewing fossil fuels. We are not retracting those criticisms, and in fact would redouble our argument following the horrendous "derecho" event the other day and massive heat wave we're experiencing here and around the country. As NBC Washington's Chief Meterologist Doug Kammerer said the other day"If we did not have global warming, we wouldn't see this." And that global warming, of course, is being fueled (literally) by humanity spewing greenhouse gases, including CO2 from the combustion of coal and natural gas, into the atmosphere. That needs to stop, and soon, or we're all in deep, deep trouble (except a lot more heat waves and "derecho" type events, for instance).Today, however, I want to give credit where credit is due, which is to the superb, even heroic, efforts of Dominion Virginia Power's employees (and especially power crews!) in restoring electricity as rapidly as possible to hundreds of thousands of Virginians following the devastating series of storms that wreaked such havoc in our state on Friday night.
Making Dominion's efforts even more impressive are several factors: 1) we're in the midst of an historic heat wave, which means that the company's resources presumably were already strained to the limit dealing with that when the "derecho" hit; 2) unlike a blizzard or hurricane that is predicted days in advance, these storms came on us suddenly, with essentially no warning as to their scope and severity, meaning that power companies like Dominion had almost no time to prepare in any way;  3) this was a widespread event over many states, meaning that there's a lot of competition for emergency power crews to come in and help us from out of Virginia; and 4) Dominion's power crews are having to work 10-hour shifts in the sweltering heat we're experiencing, which cannot be pleasant to put it mildly, and could even be dangerous without proper precautions, training, etc. (which apparently they have, as I don't believe there have been any reports of Dominion workers being hurt in all this).

So, what have the results been so far? For starters, Dominion has now restored power to more than 70% of the 1 million or so of their customers who lost power in Friday night's vicious storms (about 60 hours later, 244,332 customers remain without power). That compares favorably to Pepco, which reports that it "has restored power to about half of the more than 440,000 customers who lost power as a result of Friday's storm."In addition, Dominion has done a great job using social media to communicate with people during this situation. I checked Dominion's Twitter feed (with over 16,000 followers, for instance, and there have been hundreds of tweets since the storm hit, providing all kinds of useful information, even responding to individual customers with questions. Same thing with Dominion's Facebook page (15,271 "likes") and YouTube channel (see above for the latest). Great job on the social media front!
This type of response clearly just doesn't "happen;" instead, it's got to be the result of tremendous planning, effective management, hard-working and motivated employees, lots of factors really. I've worked on energy issues for over 20 years now, and I can definitely say that the vast majority of people don't realize how complex these systems are, from production to processing to generation to transmission to emergency response  and contingency planning, the list goes on and on. So, in this case kudos to Dominion Virginia Power, and of course the crews who are out there right now sweltering in the heat and humidity while working to restore the remaining 30% or so of customers still without power. From the crew at Blue Virginia, we'd just like to say, "thank you!"