Con Ed pledged to spend at least $250 million on short-term improvements at its facilities, such as installing better flood barriers and pumps.
The utility is also looking at reconfiguring its electrical networks so neighborhoods in flood zones can be isolated from the rest of the city, Miksad said. That would prevent flood-related blackouts from extending to dry sections of town, as they did during Sandy.
Much of New York’s power distribution system is already underground, sealed off in cables designed to be fully submersible. The bigger problem in major storms is usually the overhead wires that still serve the more suburban and coastal sections of the city.
City officials have talked for years about burying those lines to protect them from the wind, but Miksad said Con Ed estimated the citywide cost at $60 billion.
Other types of upgrades, though, are getting a closer look.
The New Jersey utility PSE&G is evaluating whether it can build better flood defenses into substations in tidal areas. Of the 294 switching stations and substations on its system, 108 were affected by the storm surge, with some taking on four to eight feet of water, according to the company.
The utility says it also might be able to shorten the duration of outages by installing “smart meters” that can pinpoint which customers have lost power. Right now, it relies on phone reports. Installing the meters just in PSE&G’s coverage area could cost $600 million, which has caused some ratepayer advocates to question whether they would be worth the expense.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a speech that his administration would independently assess what it would take to make the electrical system, and other vital networks – such as natural gas, phone and cable – capable of withstanding at least a Category 2 hurricane.
“No matter what we do, the tides will continue to come in, and so we have to make our city more resilient in other ways, especially when it comes to our critical infrastructure,” he said.
But he also noted that the city’s resources for those modernization projects aren’t unlimited.
“We have to live in the real world and make tough decisions based on the costs and benefits of risk-avoidance investments,” Bloomberg said. “Saying we’re going to spend whatever it takes just is not realistic.”<< previous 1 2 3