As power came back on in Ridgefield after the last major storm — Superstorm Sandy — a lightbulb lit up over First Selectman Rudy Marconi’s head.
His idea — that CL&P should offer backup generators to its customers at a monthly fee to defray the possibly prohibitive upfront cost — has gained some media attention outside of town and support from area municipal executives, including First Selectman Natalie Ketcham.
Ms. Ketcham said on Monday that Mr. Marconi has a good idea. “Anything to help residents be self-sufficient during an extended power outage is advisable and a good thing,” she said.
She is proposing that CL&P also provide professional electrical hookups along with the generator “to assure that they are properly installed. This is for the protection of the homeowners and the CL&P lineworkers when the generators are in use.”
It is important to note the availability of generators “would in no way relinquish CL&P from its responsibility to restore power as quickly as possible to its customers. It would only make that period of time less onerous for homeowners,” Ms. Ketcham stressed.
Mr. Marconi’s call for the utility to “be more creative and think outside the box” about storm response, which The Ridgefield Press, The Pilot’s sister newspaper, reported online Nov. 5 and in the Nov. 8 print edition, has been picked up by the CBS and NBC local channels, WTNH and the Associated Press among other outlets after Mr. Marconi sent a Nov. 21 letter to the utility.
Mr. Marconi formalized his call for the utility to consider the generator when he wrote to William Quinlan, CL&P’s vice president for emergency preparedness, last week.
After the last three storms “some, but not all, members of our community purchased generators for their homes. Unfortunately, the majority of residents cannot afford the cost” of a generator and “proper electrical installation,” Mr. Marconi wrote.
“Therefore, it is my request that CL&P investigate and, hopefully, implement a program … that would allow a resident to purchase such equipment based on a monthly payment plan that makes it affordable for every homeowner to have emergency power when necessary. …
“This program, if you recall, was available through Yankee Gas for the purchase of hot water heaters for many years,” he wrote, referring to a program that the gas company, which is part of the same company as CL&P, implemented to encourage people to convert their homes to gas.”
Hurricane Sandy was the third storm in a little over a year to leave 100% of Ridgefield residents, and nearly as many in Redding, without grid power. After each storm, it took a week for nearly complete recovery in both towns.
Mr. Marconi and Ms. Ketcham have criticized the utility and called for it to improve storm response. They, along with first selectmen from Wilton and Newtown, joined forces to make their case for improved storm response before the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority following Tropical Storm Irene and Alfred, a nor’easter, last year. Now Mr. Marconi has changed his approach from focusing solely on improving response time to recognizing that a long recovery appears inevitable.