Outage response will stay the same, says Liberty Energy
January 26, 2011
Operators of South Lake Tahoe’s new power company, Liberty Energy, assured the City Council Tuesday that their response to widespread power outages will be the same as Sierra Pacific Power Company.
Following a severe winter storm in December that knocked out power to thousands of customers for several days, council members raised concerns that the smaller company would not have the ability to respond to outages as effectively as Sierra Pacific. Liberty Energy completed its purchase of Sierra Pacific’s assets Jan. 1.
Ian Robertson, the CEO of Algonquin Power & Utilities, one of Liberty Energy’s parent companies, said Tuesday that the electric company will employ most of the same line crews who worked at the South Shore. Some of those staff members chose to remain contracted with NVEnergy, which once included Sierra Pacific, but will still work at the South Shore, Robertson said.
Liberty Energy’s mutual assistance agreements with NVEnergy, Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Sierra-Plumas Rural Electric Cooperative have also been effective in the past and will continue to be effective in the future at providing emergency outage response, Robertson said.
The agreements were called upon Monday, during an outage that knocked out energy to about 3,000 customers.
While the mutual assistance agreements don’t require the other energy companies to give Liberty Energy all the help it requests, the companies will focus on doing the most good for the most people in the event of a regional power outage, Robertson said.
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The situation is similar to what customers would have experienced under Sierra Pacific, Robertson said.
He said the arrangements are standard approach because no energy company can staff for “the one in 100 storm.”
Following suggestions from council members, Robertson said Liberty Energy is also exploring additional ways to communicate with customers during outages to give them the best possible estimates about when power will return.
He said positioning Liberty Energy’s president, Bob Dodds, in South Lake Tahoe, is one way the company is improving communication with South Shore customers and showing it’s commitment to the area.
Councilman Tom Davis said the company would earn trust from the community through its actions and said he was sure the company would live up to expectations.
“We totally understand we are in ‘show me’ mode, if you will, from building trust,” Robertson said. “It’s nice that we are able to come here today and make a presentation, but at the end of the day, results will speak for themselves.”