As of 7 p.m. EDT on Sept. 11, more than 7.1 million customers were without power across Florida and in parts of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina as a result of Hurricane Irma. As the storm moved through the region, companies were able to address more than 1.25 million outages, thanks largely to recent investments in energy grid technology and automation. Irma was downgraded to a tropical storm earlier today.
"This is likely to be one of the largest and most complex power restoration efforts in U.S. history," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "An army of more than 50,000 workers from across the United States and Canada is now dedicated to supporting the industry's Irma restoration efforts. This includes workers from affected companies, as well as mutual assistance crews, contractors, and other support personnel. Mutual assistance is a hallmark of our industry and serves as an effective—and critical—restoration resource for electric companies."
Given the size and strength of Irma, infrastructure systems will need to be rebuilt completely in some places of Florida before power can be restored. This will delay restoration times, and customers should be prepared for the possibility of extended power outages.
"We know that being without electricity creates hardships, and we greatly appreciate customers' patience as electric companies work day and night to assess damage and to restore power where and when conditions are safe to do so," said Kuhn. "Companies will continue their storm restoration efforts around the clock until the last customer who can receive power is restored."
Responding to major events like Irma requires significant coordination among the public and private sectors, and strong industry-government coordination is critical. As we did throughout Hurricane Harvey, EEI and the electric power industry are working through the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC) to coordinate with the federal government, other segments of the industry, and critical infrastructure operators.
For the fourth consecutive day, Energy Secretary Rick Perry joined an ESCC call with the CEOs of companies impacted by Irma to identify issues that will expedite power restoration. "We commend Secretary Perry's ongoing leadership and the commitment of the entire Administration to ensure unity of effort in the Irma response," said Kuhn.
Ensuring the safety of customers, communities, and workers is the electric power industry's highest priority. As always, customers should stay away from downed power lines and always treat fallen wires and anything touching them as though they are energized. Customers using generators should plug appliances directly into the generator and follow all safety warnings.