With the downtown blackout stretching into its third day, the mayor of Vancouver is calling for an investigation into the debilitating power outage that shutdown nearly a quarter of the business district.
"It is so frustrating. We have people, businesses that are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars," Mayor Sam Sullivan said while touring the affected area Tuesday night.
About 10 per cent of BC Hydro customers affected by Monday's blackout downtown were still without power Wednesday morning, but Telus said phone service had been fully restored.
"I think we need to have a real independent investigation about what has gone on," Sullivan said.
But officials at BC Hydro said they were pleased with how quickly repairs were carried out.
"Given the extent of the damage to our underground circuits, I am pleased that we have been able to restore power to the vast majority of our customers within 48 hours," said Gary Rodford, senior vice-president of field operations.
BC Hydro crews worked throughout the night again Tuesday to repair the remaining damage after an underground fire destroyed about 14 circuits under Richards Street, cutting off power to about 2,200 customers in a five-block area.
Officials expected power would be restored to the remaining customers by the end of Wednesday, and asked that customers conserve as much power as possible until the whole system is operating at full capacity.
Telus said the extended power outage challenged its backup power systems, affecting service to about 60 buildings.
Demand for investigation and compensation
Sullivan's comments were echoed by Peter Ladner, a city councillor, who said, "We're all starting to ask some questions about what is happening? Why is it taking so long to fix it?"
The massive power outage was not the first for the area. A year ago, on July 5, 2007, just metres from Monday's fire, one of two underground transformers at the Cathedral Square substation failed.
At that time, businesses were asked to conserve power by turning off air conditioning and other unnecessary equipment, or risk a massive blackout.
Sullivan is concerned that the most recent power outage will cost companies money through lost business.
"It is very difficult. We've talked to the tourism industry, people that are trying to keep the economy running, and here they are hampered by this lack of power."
Charles Gauthier, the executive director of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, said the business community wants an independent inquiry into the ongoing problems.
"Ultimately if there is fault, then [compensate] the business that are going through a very difficult time."
BC Hydro not liable for lost revenue
Gary Rodford, a senior vice-president with BC Hydro, said there is not a lot the company can do.
"Under our tariff we don't guarantee power. We are not focusing on that at this point. If people want to put claims in, we will look at them, but our tariff basically says we are not guaranteeing, especially for lost revenue, we are not."
BC Hydro's electrical contracts state the company is not responsible for the loss of profit, loss of revenues, or any other economic loss, stemming from an electricity disruption.
At the Albion Books store, just down the street from Monday's fire, owner David Beaver was without power for the second night in a row on Tuesday, but said he doesn't expect much compensation from BC Hydro.
"Hydro probably has a clause that says acts of God will not be compensated. These big corporations, they have these kinds of situations covered pretty well, I think," Beaver said.
Like many other BC Hydro customers, Beaver was getting on with things by working in the dark, trying to find books for his customers.
"I know my stock pretty well, so I'm sort of fumbling around like, you know, Braille."