Hydro-Québec: The duration of outages has more than doubled within a year

Last year, Hydro-Québec customers spent an average of more than 14 hours without power, after waiting 5 hours and 45 minutes in 2021.

• Also read: Almost 500 Hydro customers have been waiting for a connection for more than two years

• Also read: To reduce outages and connection delays, Hydro-Québec will spend up to $50 billion

• Also read: Increases limited to a maximum of 3%: Hydro-Québec could pay less money to the state

These numbers come from Hydro-Québec’s 2022 Sustainability Report. To measure the reliability of its service, Hydro-Québec uses a “continuity index” equal to the average annual service interruption time per customer.

In 2022, Hydro customers spent an average of more than 14 hours (848 minutes) without power, while in 2021 that duration was approximately 5 hours 45 minutes (346 minutes).

Mother Nature doesn’t help

Two weather events in particular caused the index to rise sharply in 2022. First, the May derecho, a storm front with gusts exceeding 150 km/h that hit the grid and caused the replacement of 1,125 poles and 400 transformers.

Added to this was the snowstorm on December 23rd, which, according to the state-owned company, resulted in an average service interruption of 204 minutes per customer. Some of the 640,000 affected households were forced to spend Christmas by candlelight while thousands of Hydro workers worked to resolve 7,529 outages.

Double errors

“What didn’t help was that these storms affected many customers at the same time. It wasn’t just one part of a city, but major outages in multiple areas. As a result, the indices increased significantly,” explains François Bouffard, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University.

During these outages, Hydro also had to deal with “secondary failures” that occurred when the arteries were resuscitated, the professor explains.

“For example, people had neither turned off their heating nor their lights. However, when Hydro reconnects them, the homes are cold and all the heating systems restart at the same time, putting a lot of strain on that part of the network. In some cases, transformers have burned out, leading to a second fault that takes even longer to repair as replacing a large transformer is very time-consuming,” he says.

Things could get worse

“We see that there are more and more severe weather events,” emphasizes Maxence Huard-Lefebvre from Hydro-Québec. “But we are committed to correcting the trend and reducing the number of outages by 35% within seven to 10 years by increasing our investment in grid reliability,” he adds.

The new CEO, Michael Sabia, recently said that Hydro-Québec’s service was “not up to par.” To reduce outages and connection times, Hydro-Québec will spend up to $50 billion in the coming years.

However, Hydro-Québec’s continuity index is not expected to improve this year, as the company said 2023 was among the worst in the last 15 years in terms of power outages.

“It is certain that the poles are more likely to break if we have a network that is more fragile to begin with. And if the vegetation around the facilities was not always well managed, that was also a complicating factor, emphasizes François Bouffard. The people at Hydro have a lot of work to do and are aware of it.”

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Originally posted 2023-11-14 06:06:19.