Will Vermont Utilities' Tree-Clearing Plan Stand Up To Stronger Storms?

Nov 2, 2017

Every year, electric utilities clear trees and vegetation around power lines. With several thousand homes and business in Vermont still without power after Sunday's windstorm, could more clearing prevented these lengthy outages?

According to Jim Porter, director of public advocacy for the Department of Public Service, electric utilities' tree-clearing plans are approved by the Public Utilities Commission, and updated every three years.

“Every time there is an outage that is caused for various reasons, including if a tree comes down on a power line, that is reported to the department,” he said. “Those reports are calculated and they are also considered in the next trimming plan.”

Porter said that generally, utilities do a good job with their tree maintenance, and that he didn’t think there was much that the utilities could have reasonably done to prepare for this recent storm.

“This was really a somewhat unprecedented storm,” Porter said. “You have a huge amount of wind and you still had some leaves on the trees — I actually had a tree come down on my house.”

According the Northeast Climate Science Center at the University of Massachusetts, this region could see more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change.

Porter said he thinks that fundamentally, utilities are prepared for the possibility of stronger storms.

“I think that's really the strength of the system that we have in place,” Porter said.  “As we do see more storms related to climate change they will be accounted for and calculated.”