NEW YORK - There has been a lot of talk and frustration over how Con Edison and the city handled Tropical Storm Isaias.
Many are asking if they could have been better prepared, as some New Yorkers remain without power a week after the storm hit.
But can electrical systems be made less vulnerable to storms? The answer is complicated.
“The challenge that we face though is that there really is no way to completely insulate the electric infrastructure from damage. Basically you have a choice — if you put the power lines above ground, they’re more susceptible to flying debris, wind events, falling trees,” Ted Kury, the director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida, told NY1.
“But if you place them underground, you are more susceptible to water incursion. New York City had quite a bit of water incursion during Sandy. It’s really a trade-off — what type of damage are you most concerned with,” he continued.
While it may be the case that many neighborhoods in the city would be better suited for buried power lines, the solution isn’t so simple.
For one, the cost to put power lines underground in NYC would come with a price tag of $50 billion, according to ConEd President Tim Cawley. And even so, it wouldn’t be up to ConEd to pull the trigger.
That's because like all other electric utilities in the country, ConEd is a regulated business.
“They don’t operate autonomously. They make investments and then it’s up to the utility regulator…to make the ultimate decision on whether that expense is used and useful for the public, whether it provides value for the money that people are being asked to spend. Because ultimately, all of those costs go into the rates that people pay,” Kury said.
“Utilities can’t do this on their own. Customers can’t do this on their own. There is that utility regulator that is responsible for making this decision,” he added.
Kury joined "Mornings On 1" via Skype Tuesday morning.