The October outage was made worse by the trend among utilities to cut back on staff, relying upon unreliable electronics.
POWNAL — Customers of Central Maine Power are like the bottled genie in “The Arabian Nights.” For the first thousand years, he dreamed of the riches he would bestow on his liberator; for the next thousand, he plotted the ways in which the deliverer could be tortured.
People are so thankful to have the lights back on after a week or more in the dark that they tend to forget and forgive, which does nothing to prevent such problems from occurring again after the next inevitable windstorm. The delays in power restoration after the devastating late-October storm were so unconscionable that Mainers greeted guests with “Welcome to Puerto Rico North.”
The situation was bad to begin with, because of the unusual direction that the storm’s winds took, but it was made worse by the trend among utilities to cut back on staff, relying upon unreliable electronics, such as “smart meters” and the optimistic and erroneous CMP website, while contracting out vital services. The result has been a lack of routine maintenance, which would have reduced the damage considerably. In Pownal, for example, we have not seen a maintenance or tree-trimming crew on our heavily wooded road for five years. And while there was plenty of prior warning about the storm, the company seemed totally unprepared.
In speaking with individual employees of CMP, I have received an impression of resentment over management practices, demoralization and sour mirth about the advertising slogan “Flip a switch and we’re there.”