UPDATE - Maritime Electric cuts power to prevent full-scale blackout

Nigel Armstrong
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A Maritime Electric worker repairs a line in this Guardian file photo

Power back on after blackouts affected Kensington, New Annan, Hunter River, Rattenbury and surrounding areas

An emergency system was activated Thursday, cutting electrical power to parts of P.E.I. to prevent a total blackout across the province.

Maritime Electric issued an advisory at 5:40 p.m. saying that about 5 p.m. Thursday it cut power to certain large business customers, a process it called shedding load.

“We have a handful of large customers on P.E.I. that are called interruptible business customers,” said Kim Griffin, spokesperson for Maritime Electric. “They get a reduction on the cost of their power because if situations like this occur, we have the right to cut off their power.”

While that was happening, another problem with the electrical system arose, the exact cause of which was not determined as of Thursday night.

“As the system started to shed load and cut off these interruptible business customers, we also had some freezing problems,” said Griffin. “The system began to shut off more customers to protect itself. It all happened within 30 minutes of each other.”

It created power outages from Hunter River to Sherbrooke including Kensington, New Annan, Hunter River, Rattenbury and surrounding areas.

“The system started to restore power within 15 minutes,” said Griffin. “We went in and very slowly and systematically restored all our residential customers first.”

By 7 p.m. all residential customers had power back on and businesses costumers were slowly returning to full power.

Griffin said Maritime Electric would have preferred to issue warnings to the Island but the usual surge of power demand between 5 and 7 p.m. was much higher than expected Thursday.

“This happened very quickly,” she said. “With the cold temperatures, people were using more power than ever.”  

Much of that increased demand is likely due to the popularity of residential air-source heat pumps or other sources of electrical heat.

“We have been talking about that for the last several months,” said Griffin. “If consumers can, where possible, if there are areas where they can conserve, that certainly  helps.”

It was not a rolling blackout or brownout, she said of Thursday’s event.

“This was an emergency power outage,” said Griffin. “We had to protect our cables. If this didn’t happen, you could have a blackout.”

Griffin said the computer system’s analysis of the entire Island balances the electrical load across zones and determines which areas will have power cut first, and subsequently in which Island zones.

“It is a computer-controlled system that affects all of P.E.I.” said Griffin. “It is called the Cable Overload Scheme, and it actually worked exactly how it’s supposed to work because it has to protect our whole system and all of our cables. It performed as it should.”



Organizations: Maritime Electric

Geographic location: Kensington, Hunter River

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Recent comments

  • Margie
    January 03, 2014 - 17:12

    I live in New Annan! Our power went off at 4:50 pm last night. I called and they did not have any idea as to what the problem! Now you are on the news telling people you had to shut down larger businesses, and they get a reduced rate for that inconvenience! Well we get nothing cause we are not a large business? You should get your story straight and inform your people answering the phone. They get a warning we get nothing! Unhappy customer in New Annan

  • Yeahright
    January 03, 2014 - 12:56

    Power to homes on Sunset Cres. and surrounding areas (Kensington) was not returned until 10:30 p.m. Thus, statements contained in the following two paragraphs are patently false. “The system started to restore power within 15 minutes,” said Griffin. “We went in and very slowly and systematically restored all our residential customers first.” "By 7 p.m. all residential customers had power back on and businesses costumers were slowly returning to full power." It seems to me that the businesses who pay the reduced rate had their power returned before many of us who pay premium rates had our power returned. Yet again, corporate interests and false PR trumps all else. Great stuff, ME and your willing buddies at the Guardian.

    • Yeahwrong
      January 03, 2014 - 18:30

      Surrounding areas? Kensington you say? I live in Kensington, yes I had power back by 7PM, me, me, me, again, again, and again, government is against me, Maritime Electric is against us, me, me, me. "It seems to you: does does it? shouldn't confuse "seems" to you with fact. Seems to me you whine about anything.

  • Justin
    January 03, 2014 - 11:24

    What is the big deal with this story. This practice is done everywhere else. Large load customers of a utility get discounted rate to have their power supply cut on short notice due to periods of high demands. It is not rocket science and has happened before in PEI and happens daily in many large centers it just doesn't make the new because it is NOT news. The customers are given a short notice and then they are cut from the grid. I have been involved in with this in other places where I have worked as well as in PEI . It really is not a big deal.

  • Matt
    January 03, 2014 - 10:07

    The Heat Pumps are a lot more efficient then using oil or wood to heat your homes. They cost less and most of their energy is turned into heat, where oil and wood, you lose half of it up your chimney. Time to move out of the 1950s.

    • Bill
      January 03, 2014 - 14:36

      It is easy to say what is more efficient on monthly costs, but if the entire province has to worry about losing power; I think we should move out of the 1950's as well and more back to the 1850's.

  • Proud Ma
    January 03, 2014 - 08:49

    have you people ever thought of SOLAR power? YES, there is an initial cost of equipment/installation (as is with anything), but when that last payment is made you are perhaps, heating, lighting and even heating your home, perhaps garage, and your swimming pool for FREE (the last one needs imagination on a day like today)....my son has a solar system. He is totally satisfied with his.

    • Head shaker
      January 03, 2014 - 14:01

      How does it work with 3 feet of snow on the collector?

  • Bill
    January 03, 2014 - 08:47

    This is evidence that convenience will eventually cause our undoing. Fir instance, how many people have woodstoves and contingency plans should we lose our grid permanently? If a heat pump can cause trouble, wait for a solar flare.

  • sammy
    January 03, 2014 - 06:58

    I cant help but wonder where all of the wind turbine energy is going. I know for a fact it has been used and is quite capable of running the whole island by itself. so with wind and cable power we should not have any power issues on pei,,, if it is available to us.

    • don
      January 03, 2014 - 07:26

      wes is selling the wind power off island he can make more money to give away o high money islanders. do you really think that islanders are important to this government?

    • John
      January 03, 2014 - 11:42

      Don, do you really think "Islanders," or anyone for that matter anywhere in any jurisdiction, is important to any government?

  • Whatever...
    January 03, 2014 - 06:49

    Good to know we are putting in all these windmills to help us all out, communities are benefitting greatly from these wonderful structures....oh wait, wrong country. Greenest province in Canada? Whatever.

  • Tracy
    January 03, 2014 - 05:17

    I would just like to clarify that the residents of sunset crescent in Kensington did not have power restored until 10 PM. However, I do appreciate all the hard work by Maritime electric crews, in this cold weather.

  • Seize Maritime Electric Assets
    January 02, 2014 - 22:07

    Maritime Electric: worst corporation in PEI; fully funded by taxpayers who don't keep a close eye on their corrupt politicians. If there were any hard-hitting journalists in the province this would be a story. But it's break time right? It's break time.

    • Pete
      January 03, 2014 - 06:52

      Seize, I would imagine that the majority of their funding comes from those electrical bills that we pay every month? lol

  • Pete
    January 02, 2014 - 20:34

    "By 7 p.m. all residential customers had power back on" As of 9:15pm, my daughter's neighbourhood in Kensington was still without power

  • Bob
    January 02, 2014 - 20:28

    Brrrrrrrrr ppplease ssstop global wwwwwarming....

  • An Islander
    January 02, 2014 - 20:21

    These heat pumps are going to drive our electric rates so high due to infastructure upgrades, it will have everyone switching back to oil in a few years. Maritime Electric is already fast tracking plans to build another combustion power plant to handle future demand. Energy rates on the island are going to be bad in a few years I am guessing!

    • John
      January 02, 2014 - 21:36

      You better believe it. Wholesale cost of electricity in New Brunswick today was trading at 20 cents/kWh. Maritime Electric was running the gas turbine at 5 o'clock probably cost 30 cents/kWh to run it. The Government is subsidizing the installation of heatpumps. This is creating a huge problem that all electric customers will have to pay for.

  • LOLing
    January 02, 2014 - 19:43

    3 of 6 words in title spelled wrong. Nigel must have been in a panic to get it published!!!

  • Garth Staples
    January 02, 2014 - 18:33

    Oh that global warming problem needs solving. LOL.

    • Brian
      January 02, 2014 - 20:17

      Just because it's cold doesn't mean Global Warming isn't a real... apply some critical thinking here, please.