“Perfect storm’’ cuts power to thousands of customers: Maritime Electric

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Maritime Electric

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.

Organizations: Maritime Electric, Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Geographic location: P.E.I., Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Sunny
    January 04, 2014 - 20:02

    Why can't PEI expand our wind power instead of expanding the number if cables attached to mainland, nuclear-generated power? I'd like to erect my own wind tower, but the antiquated municipality in which I reside has banned wind towers.

  • Brian
    January 04, 2014 - 08:46

    It is to bad we did not use some of the 16 million in Bonshaw for more windmills it may help the next time. The money should of been invested in power. At least with all the new demand from heat pumps the government is collecting HST off the bill. For those without power maybe you could drive your warm car over the Bonshaw highway and be happy with the way your tax money is spent.

  • Guy Cousineau
    January 04, 2014 - 08:09

    We need to be more considerate of our neighbours. Prime time is about 5-9. This is when people get home, put on laundry, take a shower, make supper, while the stores are still open and using electricity also. Add to that the increased use of heat pumps which also increases the peak time load. So how about on those -20 days we be a bit considerate of our neighbours and postpone discretionary use like showers and laundry and even turn the heat down 1 degree. We only get 5-10 of those days a year and a small discomfort on your part will help avoid thousands freezing in the dark.

  • Mike O'Neil
    January 04, 2014 - 07:27

    There's no mention of the "new" on-Island generator - which couldn't get started. Mr/Ms. Fortis, seems like someone missed the boat on that one. Guess the business continuity plan needs to be updated.