NB Power is boosting its tree-trimming budget after back-to-back ice storms in December left 88,000 customers in southern and central New Brunswick without electricity during an 11-day period.

Tree cutting near St. Stephen

The December ice storm cost NB Power approximately $12 million. (Submitted by NB Power)

The Crown corporation said on Tuesday it will spend $5.8 million this year on cleaning low-hanging branches and trees from around power lines. That amount is $1 million more than in 2013.

"Trees make our province a beautiful place to live, but they are also the leading cause of power outages in New Brunswick," said NB Power president Gaƫtan Thomas at a news conference in Rothesay, which was one of the hardest-hit communities in the ice storms.

"Trees and branches falling into power lines during severe weather caused about 30 per cent of unplanned outages during the last two years."

NB Power will also test a system designed to identify where trees have the potential to come into contact with power lines.

The remote-sensing technology uses a laser to measure the distance between trees and power lines through analyzing reflected light and indicate which power lines are at risk of having contact with trees.

The company also said it will improve communication with property owners who are affected by tree-trimming.

Efforts are also being made to give improved information online about the estimated time of power restoration.

NB Power says it will also improve communications to help customers understand how and why priorities are set in restoring power where a large number of customers are affected by numerous outages.