Hugh McDonald, president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas, said the state’s largest electricity utility had room for improvement in its response to the hard-hitting winter storm that ruptured service to hundreds of thousands of Arkansans for nearly a week.
McDonald, who appeared on this week’s edition of Talk Business Arkansas, said he gives Entergy a “B” for its handling of the catastrophic storm outages, noting “there’s always opportunity for improvement.”
The full cost of the storm’s damage will not be determined for several more weeks.
The Entergy Arkansas leader also noted that this was the first major storm where social media played a role in communicating with customers.
“From our perspective, we learned a lot in that process,” he said. “Our market research tells us our customers want to hear from us. They want information. They want as much information as we can give them.”
He said the power outage map on the company’s web site – viewed by a high number of smart phones and smart devices – was more popular and effective than imagined and that Entergy would look for ways to bolster it going forward in the event of future disasters.
McDonald also discussed the possibility of Entergy moving to a system of buried electrical lines to prevent widespread damage incurred from the recent storm from happening again. He said that a number of out-of-state studies indicate that the expense for converting existing lines to underground status would be tremendous.
“There’s pros and cons of each,” McDonald said in reference to burying lines or not.
He added that in some studies regulators have concluded that burying lines could cause electricity bills for customers to rise by 80% to 125%.
“I wouldn’t say it wouldn’t be a debate. We may be requested or required to do the appropriate studies with various parties’ input, but I’m just saying that the analyses that have been done before, that [cost not outweighing benefits] has been the common conclusion.”
You can view McDonald’s full interview below.