Well over a year after launching the effort, the Louisiana Public Service Commission has not issued rules regarding strengthening the electricity distribution grid and taking care of abandoned utility poles.
Commissioner Davante Lewis, who represents parts of the Capital Region, says the PSC is understaffed and uses the same small group of consultants for every issue. They can handle only so much at once, and utility submissions tend to move faster than commissioners’ policy initiatives, especially if a commissioner isn’t actively pushing a particular issue, he says.
Lewis says the commission should consider diversifying its consultants.
“I can’t keep giving everything to four people,” he says. “Because if four people have everything, that means only certain things get done.”
The strength of the grid is always questioned after a major storm, and Baton Rouge has many unused wooden utility poles littering the landscape. The two issues fall under the umbrella of maintaining and strengthening the grid, and Lewis says they have been folded into a docket focused on reliability.
“It is taking longer than expected in part because all the issues related to the grid—pole materials, modernization, resiliency, utility communication—are under review simultaneously,” says Commissioner Craig Greene, who also represents parts of the Baton Rouge area, in a prepared statement. “We are going to get it done but we need to get it done right.”
Along with the unused poles, Lewis says abandoned lines also are a problem. He does not criticize the PSC staff but says reviewing the commission’s processes may be in order.
“We’re going to have to move faster to handle emerging crises,” he says.