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Empire editorial: Thank you AEL&P

Posted: December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

Is it “better to be lucky than good” or “better to be good than lucky?” Theories are endless, and we suspect there will be no small debate on our comment board following this piece.

A good blend of both luck and being good at what they do appears to be the case with recent power related events that the good folks at AEL&P have had to deal with in recent weeks.

On Thanksgiving morning, tension cables supporting a tower on the Snettisham transmission line failed and allowed the uphill one of a trio of towers to fall into another causing the line to short-circuit. Within one hour and 15 minutes, power was restored to the community via a combination of hydro from their four hydro operations and supplemental diesel generation. It was expected to take up to a week to fix the damage, but the weather cleared unexpectedly and AEL&P was able to effect repairs and have the lines operating by Saturday afternoon — a span of only two days — eliminating more reliance on expensive diesel generation.

More recently, the 69,000-volt power line that spans Gastineau Channel to bring power to Douglas Island broke under the stress of high winds, and it landed in the channel leaving 3,800 customers in the dark. Within about two hours, however, power was restored through alternative routing until repairs to the main line were completed.

The Empire’s coverage of the request by AEL&P to increase utility rates it charges its consumers brought a level of scrutiny to a process that traditionally receives limited public input. Our news coverage was interpreted by some as being harsh toward AEL&P, and understandably so.

Our watchdog role has a mission to make sure sufficient due diligence is given in situations surrounding a monopoly and the consumers right to know. This is not necessarily a complimentary relationship but, in the end, we hope the greater good is done.

The RCA took additional input from the public and from AEL&P and the Commission spent an appropriate amount of time considering the request before making their ruling. In the end the RCA felt the increase was justified and we accept that they made this decision based upon good information.

We may see some things from different perspectives, which creates some necessary friction at times, but there’s little question in our minds that we have some extraordinary folks working at our local utility. We want to recognize AEL&P for having the human assets, materials and infrastructure in place to be responsive to these significant and unexpected events. This doesn’t happen through luck.

Mother Nature’s unpredictability has thrown some kinks in the works for AEL&P but so far this year she has been equally forgiving when it counted and crews have been prepared to take full advantage of these brief windows of opportunity. We’re calling it “good” with a measure of “lucky” thrown in.

It is easy to take for granted the reliability and convenience electricity provides us without thinking of crews on high line poles and transmission towers keeping it all working, and the support it takes to make the rest of it come together safely and reliably. To all of the men and women of AEL&P — thank you.

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