© Guardian photo
Power suddenly cut to about 9,000 customers in P.E.I. Thursday was the result of a “perfect storm,” says a Maritime Electric spokeswoman.
First, biting cold led many to draw more electricity by cranking up the heat.
Adding to the problem was a calm resulting in basically no wind power.
Maritime Electric saw the need to turn to a handful of their largest customers — a group called interruptible business customers — to lighten the load.
These customers get a reduction on the cost of their power by agreeing to allow the utility to cut off their power in emergency situations.
While Maritime Electric was cutting power to these companies — something that hasn’t needed to be done in at least four years — some freezing problems occurred.
The system, notes Griffin, began to shut off more customers to protect it. Unfortunately, the company did not have time to issue warnings.
At the peak of outages, about 9,000 customers were without power. Many were back on the grid within minutes, but others were without power for closer to two hours, notes Griffin.
She says the outage was unusual to say the least adding Maritime Electric has a strong system.
“What happened Thursday night was really an emergency situation,’’ she says. “It was like a perfect storm...it was a real challenge. It was a real intense evening.’’
With plenty of wind Friday and today powering the wind turbines and temperatures forecasted to climb, Griffin does not anticipate a repeat of the problem.
“This would have been avoided if we had a third cable,’’ she adds.
Most of P.E.I.’s electricity comes from two underwater power cables.
The province is negotiating with Ottawa on a cost sharing agreement to bring a third cable to P.E.I. The total cost of that project would be $80 million to $90 million.
The thousands of Island customers that were suddenly and unsuspectingly left in the dark Thursday night may find some, well, cold comfort in the plight of their Atlantic neighbours.
Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has been forced to resort to rolling blackouts over the past couple days to manage a supply shortage. There is not enough power to keep the heat on everywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador at once with the early winter cold snap.
Also, last week’s ice storm left thousands of residents in New Brunswick without lights or heat for days.