Despite most of my commenters lining up to defend Ameren UE, it looks like the experts agree with me: Ameren UE has a lot of explaining to do.
Missouri's top utility regulator put AmerenUE on notice Tuesday: Find a way to stop the mass power outages.
Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis gave the utility 30 days to come up with a plan.
"The response that these things just happen — that's well and good — but that line only works once a decade," Davis said in an interview while en route to St. Louis to get a firsthand look at last week's storm damage.
The storm marked the fourth time in Davis' 2 1/2-year tenure as head of the PSC that hundreds of thousands of customers were left in the dark after a major storm. More than 83,000 Ameren customers in Missouri and Illinois still were without power as of 2:22 p.m. today.
While nothing can be done to completely storm-proof the local power grid, Davis said he's tired of answering questions from upset customers.
"We've got to get some answers to people, and we've got to get them now," Davis said. "I don't want to be back here six months from now with 500,000 customers out of power."
Hundreds of thousands of customers without power... four times in 2.5 years... if that's not incompetence then someone please explain what is. You can't just blame the weather every time you screw up. It's easy to keep the power going when nothing happens.
AmerenUE said last week's storm that left a thick coat of ice on trees, poles and power lines, prompting many to snap, is unprecedented in its 100-year history. The utility made the same argument when back-to-back thunderstorms left almost a million people without electric service in the bistate area in July — some for as long as nine days.
The most pathetic part of the story is the deflection by Ameren's spokeswoman.
"We understand the commission's frustration," Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Tuesday. "We share that frustration. Everyone is looking for an easy answer. Everyone wants to make this better, but our priority is getting everyone back on."
Right, and after the power is back on they'll say something like, "We shouldn't be looking to place blame, we just need to work together to make sure it never happens again!"