Until Superstorm Sandy arrived, Con Edison operated one of the largest and most reliable electric systems in the world. But when Superstorm Sandy hit on Oct. 29, 2012, closely followed by a nasty nor’easter, it took out approximately one-third of Con Edison’s metropolitan New York and Westchester County service territory. More than 1 million customers needed to be restored. Extensive and extended outages were caused by flooding in underground infrastructure that had never been affected before.
Sandy caused five times as many outages as the next largest storm in Con Edison’s history, which was Hurricane Irene in August 2011. After Sandy, Con Edison and thousands of mutual aid and contractor personnel replaced 60 miles of electric cable and responded to tens of thousands of locations. The company went through a year’s worth of some materials during the restoration.
For many years, the utility had been examining ways to protect its infrastructure and maintain reliable service for customers during unusually severe storms such as Sandy. Now it is firmly committed to do so.
While Con Edison invests nearly $2 billion every year in its electric, gas and steam systems, the utility has recently committed to a short-term investment of $250 million specifically for measures to help protect critical equipment from flood damage. These measures would include raising electrical relay houses in substations, installing stronger barriers for flood protection, and adding flood pumps. Long term, Con Edison is considering putting major overhead power lines underground and also examining the possibility in greater detail.
Con Edison delivers power to more than three million customers through 36,000 miles of overhead wires and 94,000 miles of underground cables. That’s why the utility is evaluating the long-term possibility of burying its entire distribution network, a project estimated to cost $40 billion. The utility is currently in disussions with the New York Public Service Commission about increasing its annual investment to protect infrastructure.