Few companies directly impact Long Islanders on a daily basis as much as the Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG). As the head of its PSEG Long Island subsidiary, Daniel Eichhorn is the executive in charge of making sure more than 1 million homes and businesses have the energy they need to keep running.
Since 2017, Eichhorn has been president and chief operating officer of PSEG-LI, which operates the Long Island Power Authority’s transmission and distribution system under a 12-year contract. He recently spoke with the Press about some of PSEG-LI’s many initiatives and how it’s striving to keep our lights on and bills as low as possible. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
What is the mission of PSEG-LI? We have six goals. Safety, customer satisfaction, reliability — keeping customers’ lights on — storm response, helping customers save money on their bill (mainly through energy efficiency), and giving back to the community.
You started upgrading more than 3,000 miles of wire. How far have you gotten? Since 2014, 2,684 miles of wire have been inspected and upgraded. We also received a grant of about $730 million from FEMA, which is great for Long Island customers because it’s not coming out of their bill. It’s coming out of federal funding. We’ve raised substations, we’ve replaced poles with bigger, more sturdy, hurricane-proof poles, we’ve upgraded wire and the hardware associated with that. And since doing the FEMA work, we’ve done an additional 708 miles of storm hardening and installed 756 automated switches. That program will wrap up in about a year to 18 months from now.
What are your clean energy goals? PSEG-LI’s a big supporter of New York State’s Clean Energy Standard, which calls for 50 percent renewables by the year 2030 and a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by that same time. And it’s something we take to heart. We do have a plan in place to get to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
What are the main challenges that PSEG-LI has faced? The biggest challenge we had, I think, was the perception that, “Hey, are they going to be any different?” And I think with all the technology we implemented in our customer area, pretty much every channel of how a customer interacts with us has been upgraded with state-of-the-art technology.
What do Long Islanders need to know to protect themselves from utility scams? Most of the scams — and the most successful scam — is when the scammers call a customer, threatening to turn off their electricity. A lot of times it’s a Friday night, when people may be looking to entertain. They try the scam with businesses around their critical periods. And a lot of times it involves telling the customer that if they don’t make an immediate payment through a prepaid credit card that their power is going to be shut off. And we don’t do business in that way. So, we always try to get that information out to customers. If something sounds a little bit fishy, just give us a call and confirm.
How did PSEG-LI fare through our first winter storm that happened a week before Thanksgiving? We have a very well-defined storm plan and we go through a very similar preparation every time there’s a storm coming. For this storm, in general, we were prepared. It was supposed to — and it did — happen in the evening, when most of our people are nearing the end of their shift. We brought in about 200 what we call mutual aid workers — most from out of state — to assist with our restoration. About 36,000 of our customers lost power. We have 1.1 million customers. So, in general, it was a small percentage of customers. But, if you’re one of those customers, it’s a big deal to you. And the majority of our customers — 99.9 percent of them — [had power] restored within the same day or within a 24-hour period of when they lost power.
Do you have any sayings? If we’re all working together and we all understand the direction we want to go in, then we can move mountains. The other saying that I like to say is, and I really believe this one, too: What really makes a company great is not only to be able to come up with ideas, but to take those ideas and make them into reality — bring them to fruition.