The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has launched an official investigation into PECO Energy's response to the record power outages caused by last week's ice storm.
That storm, left more than 700,000 PECO customers without power, some for as many as five days.
PUC spokesman Jennifer Kocher said the inquiry into PECO's response to the outages is a standard procedure that PUC follows after any mass power outage. The commission looks at a number of factors surrounding the outages and the utility company's subsequent response to determine if the appropriate actions were taken.
"Essentially, anytime we have a large scale outage, when we do our inquiry or review of it we go back to even the forecast to look at what we were expecting in terms of the weather and what actually occurred," Kocher said.
During the process of the review, the PUC will be considering input from local elected officials and local emergency responders about how well PECO coordinated with them during the outage response.
"We look at how much equipment they had, how many people they had responding, how the companies communicated with consumers and whether they provided them with adequate information. We look at every aspect of it, and we look at the damages; and all of that goes into making a determination about how things could possibly improve."
Kocher said the investigation can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete. The goal of the review is to help PECO make improvements to its outage response, but if inadequacies are found, the company could see some penalties.
"The focus would be getting improvements to any type of system, if there are any that can be made," she said. "If we find any violation of the utility code we can fine them, but typically we will issue recommendations."
While many customers remained in the dark in the days following the storm, representatives for PECO have asked its customers to be patient, admitting that damage in some areas was worse than they expected.
Representatives for PECO said their customers will only be billed for the power they used before the outages; they will not be charged for any of the outage days.
Unfortunately, for customers, the PUC said they do not have the authority to grant any credits or reimbursements for customers' outage-related damages and losses. Kocher encouraged customers to contact their insurance agents to get information about potential reimbursements available through home and renter insurance plans.
According to Kocher, the PUC will also be taking complaints from PECO customers into consideration during the review. Customers can file a complaint with the PUC by visiting www.puc.state.pa.us and following the link for filing complaints or by calling 800-692-7380.
PECO serves more than 1.6 million electric customers in Pennslyvania, making it the largest power provider in the region. Roughly 14,000 PECO customers were still in the dark as of Monday afternoon.