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Reliable power takes maintenance

Our elders handed down to us the wisdom of their elders - such nuggets as "A stitch in time saves nine," and "Penny-wise and pound foolish."

Food for thought while waiting for chainsaw squads to clear fallen trees from downed power lines.

The June 28 derecho did immense damage to the trees that grow so enthusiastically along power line rights-of-way in the Mountain State.

The resulting outages interrupted modern life for an estimated 85 percent of West Virginians.

Residents, businesses and critical services all over the state went without electricity for many miserable days. Restoring power was a costly proposition.

Appalachian Power, which serves about half a million customers in southern West Virginia, suffered $62 million in damage. FirstEnergy, which serves the northern half of the state, said restoring power cost about $110 million.

The state Public Service Commission subsequently launched an investigation into utilities' practices and emergency responses and found the obvious: If utilities are to provide reliable service, they have to have enough money to do proper maintenance.

It's clear they have not had that.

Appalachian Power currently spends about $15 million a year on targeted tree-trimming. It proposes moving to a continuous cycle of curbing vegetation along rights of way.

Moving to a four-year cycle of looking at everything would cost an additional $25 million a year more for five years.

It would cost the average residential customer about a $1 a month for five years, then drop to about 48 cents a month.

Aggravating? Yep.

More aggravating than having to leave a hot - or cold - house every day for a week just to score a hot cup of coffee while charging the cellphone?



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