As of New Year’s Day, the task of providing Long Island and the Rockaways with electricity has been assumed by PSEG Long Island.
The change was set in motion two years ago, when the Long Island Power Authority awarded the company, a subsidiary of the Public Service Enterprise Group, which is based in Newark and the largest utility in New Jersey, a long-term contract to manage Long Island’s electrical grid. PSEG Long Island replaces National Grid, a London company that has been criticized for its customer service and especially its response following major storms such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.
PSEG plans a four-step process focusing on exceptional customer service, reliability, improved responses to storm outages, and involvement in the community, according to Jeffrey Weir, the company’s director of communications.
“Our top goal is to give the people of Long Island what they deserve,” he said.
PSEG in New Jersey has been cited as a top performer in terms of customer satisfaction, and Mr. Weir said its new Long Island subsidiary had set a goal of being “in the top quartile” for customer satisfaction among utilities nationwide by the end of its first year in operation.
The utility will begin with a three-year rate freeze, take steps to improve customer communications through the use of smartphone applications and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and introduce what Mr. Weir described as a “more aggressive” tree trimming program that would clear power lines from tree limbs while protecting the health of the trees.
“We have to get growth pruned away from those wires. It’s the top cause of power outages on Long Island,” he said.
PSEG Long Island experienced its first storm response test when a blizzard dumped about 10 inches of snow and brought frigid temperatures to the region last Thursday and Friday. Fortunately, Mr. Weir said, “Hercules wasn’t quite so Herculean,” referring to the name bestowed upon the winter storm.
He said PSEG Long Island responded to a total of approximately 2,200 power outages during the storm, with no more than about 800 people without power at any one time. The average outage, he said, was less than an hour.
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said PSEG would be a “welcome change” from National Grid.
“It will do a better job as far as customer service,” he said. “It would be hard to do a worse job.”
Mr. Thiele said legislation intended to reform and scale back the Long Island Power Authority, signed into law last summer by Governor Andrew Cuomo, fell short of the mark.
Mr. Thiele said that LIPA continues to operate with a board whose members are appointed by the governor and state legislative leaders and that the state Public Service Commission still has no regulatory authority over it.
LIPA, he said, has too long kept electric rates low by borrowing money to cover costs and, despite recent efforts to encourage green energy, had still not done enough to reduce Long Island’s reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.
“PSEG is a good company, but their responsibility is to their shareholders,” he said. “There still isn’t proper oversight of the electrical system on Long Island.”