Nova Scotia’s energy minister says the report filed by Nova Scotia Power detailing the actions it took before and after the last storm is a useful first step toward preventing another big disruption.
The Utility and Review Board ordered the report on post-tropical storm Arthur, which plunged hundreds of thousands into the dark when it landed July 5.
According to the report, NSP says the total bill for repairs and power restoration as a result of Arthur cost them up to $8.4 million.
It cost $14.6 million to clean up after Hurricane Juan and $7.3 million after Earl in 2010.
NSP says the cost of this clean-up will not drive up power rates because a reserve fund to cover storm costs is already in place.
At one point during the ordeal, more than 245,000 power customers were without electricity. It took Nova Scotia Power a week to restore service to everyone.
Four days after winds gusting to over 100 km/h blew through the Annapolis Valley and the southwestern part of the province, 10,000 customers were still waiting to have electricity restored.
After the storm and public backlash, the Utility and Review Board demanded an explanation, which the power company filed Tuesday afternoon.
"I think Nova Scotia Power has probably learned some things for the next storm, you know if we were to have one in the next couple of weeks, but there are clearly issues that still need to be resolved and we need to get to the bottom of," said Energy Minister Andrew Younger.
The 173-page report recommends more money should be spent on trimming trees around the lines to prevent more outages.
Weather forecast, trees blamed for severity of outages
One of the reasons the utility cites for the problems restoring power is that Arthur hit "with far more severity" than forecasters had predicted.
However, Nova Scotia Power customer Louise Titus doesn’t buy that.
"The forecasters had pretty much indicated what was going to happen, when it was going to hit. It was pretty much well broadcasted. I don't agree with that statement at all," she said.
NSP is also requesting greater public support from property owners so it can widen right of ways and remove hazardous limbs near power lines. It blames 90 per cent of the outages on falling trees.
Younger said the company's tree-trimming practices are a touchy subject that needs more discussion.
"I’ve had two sets of calls from people in the past couple of weeks. One from people who want more trimming and then others from people who are angry that Nova Scotia Power has gone in and done trimming. Clearly, Nova Scotia Power has to have a frank discussion with municipalities about the types of trees that are planted as street trees and so forth," he said.
NSP says it has been spending between $12 and $16 million per year on vegetation management.
It spent $1.5 million last year in western Nova Scotia, near Yarmouth, where damage was extensive. The company said more trees were uprooted in this storm because it came early in the summer, when trees were full of leaves and before the ground had dried and hardened.
The power company is promising to make improvements to the way it communicates with its customers during and after a major storm, and it's analyzing how to deal with variability when it comes to forecasting the weather.
Nova Scotia Power said it received 452,000 calls during and after the storm, at a rate of more than 300 calls per minute at the peak.
The UARB has hired consultants to advise how to make the grid less vulnerable and determine whether Nova Scotia Power needs to take any immediate action while hurricane season continues.
The public and other interested parties have until Sept. 9 to file their comments in response to the report. NSP has until Sept. 16 to file another response.