After last winter's debacle, Virginia gives SEC a list of things to do before the next ice storm

Posted at 3:17 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 18:25:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When an ice storm struck Virginia on February 12, 2021, 81 percent of Southside Electric Cooperative's customers lost power.

For many, those outages lasted two weeks.

Frustrated co-op customers called the CBS 6 Problem Solvers angry with Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC)'s preventative maintenance, vegetation management, and the large salary of president Jeff Edwards.

At the time, the only change Edwards said Southside would make would be to improve its communication and adding a call center to report outages.

But, a new investigative report from the State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, has recommended more changes:

  • Crews should investigate areas of SEC territory that are most likely to experience tree-related outages and work to address those areas.
  • The SEC should obtain additional tracked vehicles. The utility currently only has one, and the rural and remote nature of SEC's territory prevents conventional maintenance equipment from reaching damage.
  • Southside should revise its side-trimming program to include ground-to-sky trimming to prevent outages by limbs on trees outside of the right of ways that are breaking over conductors.
  • SCC staff also recommended the SEC accelerate its side trimming program after concluding one area appeared not to have been maintained for an extended period of time.
  • Staff stated SEC's trimming and hazard tree removal appeared to be reactive as opposed to proactive. Southside showed the SCC its last vegetation audit from 2015 that noted many aspects of the utility's tree trimming and removal programs needed improvement.
  • SCC staff found that many recommendations made in the audit related to multiple outage locations were never implemented but should be.
  • The SEC should replace aging electric poles and accelerate the pole inspection and replacement program.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers reached out to Ron White at Southside Electric about the recommendations.

White said the utility had not received the report yet.

The SCC also reviewed Dominion and Mecklenburg Electric's response to the storm. You can find the full report here.