OPINION — Can SEC power be depended on after a major weather event?

Published 9:05 am Thursday, April 29, 2021

The problem with Southside Electric Cooperative’s (SEC) recent presentation to the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors was that it made it very clear that a two-week outage, or worse, could happen again anytime bad weather rolls through the area.

The cooperative took no responsibility or blame or offered any future improvements that might help lessen the situation in the future. The blame melted away with the half inch of ice that coated the area.

While SEC customers want to blame a lack of supplies, a reduced right-of-way maintenance budget or even a CEO they feel is paid far too much, the presentation said the cooperative had not cut its right of way maintenance budget and never had a lack of supplies to restore power.

SEC representatives also shot down as far too expensive to even consider suggestions of using a lighter alloy for wiring, replacing poles more than 30 years old, expanding right of ways to 100 feet and putting transmission lines underground.

The problem here is we need to blame SEC. If we can’t blame the utility company, then it forces the consumer to make different decisions. If the person in Darlington Heights is on an oxygen machine, the strong possibility of going two weeks without power means they need to consider new ways to power their home.

SEC has shown it is no longer capable of quick restorations of power for a variety of uncontrollable reasons such as rough terrain, trees that fall from far outside the right of way and an expansive territory with a low density of customers in many locations.

The utility has made a great case that they cannot be depended on when a major weather event hits the area, leaving the consumer to have to consider different options to power their home either temporarily or permanently.

The two-week outage last February has to have many SEC customers considering how they can be prepared for the next one whether that be with solar, a whole house generator that runs on natural gas or propane, or a portable generator.

With technology only a few years away from disrupting the electric transmission business with improvements in solar roof tiles and battery storage, consumers now have more choices than ever about how to power their homes. We will likely see an increasing number of homes begin converting to Tesla Powerwalls or other solar/battery products in the coming years lessening consumer’s dependence on cooperatives like SEC.

Since solar power is a cheaper and cleaner energy alternative, it would be natural for this new technology to come with tax breaks that make the initial cost less of an obstacle to the average family.

As with telephones, cable and internet, the evolution of the technology is moving us beyond wires going to everyone’s home. 

Perhaps in a few years or so, an ice storm like the one that came through in February will be no big deal.

ROGER WATSON is editor for The Farmville Herald and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. His email address is Roger.Watson@FarmvilleHerald.com.