Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland power outage worsens after Holyrood incident

Power outages in Newfoundland worsened Sunday night after a main generating station was knocked offline, affecting over 100,000 customers.

Over 100,000 customers plunged back into darkness Sunday night

N.L. premier on power outages

8 years ago
Duration 7:59
Kathy Dunderdale says she does not consider the current power situation a crisis and she is hoping to have power fully restored by Sunday afternoon


  • 100,000 without power after sudden mass outage.
  • Newfoundland Power reported experiencing 'generation problems.'
  • Rolling blackouts stopped shortly before 9 p.m. NT.
  • K-12 and post-secondary institutions on the island closed until Wednesday.
  • Premier Kathy Dunderdale says situation is 'not a crisis.'
  • St. John's mayor recommending schools stay closed until Wednesday.

Power outages across Newfoundland worsened Sunday night after a sudden problem at the trouble-plagued generating station in Holyrood. 

Dawn Dalley, a vice-president with Crown-owned Nalcor Energy, said there was a disruption at the switchyard at the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro plant in Holyrood. The plant had already been operating with far less than normal capacity since a series of problems began rocking the province on Thursday. 

About 100,000 customers immediately lost power around 9:30 p.m. NT when a fault happened in the Newfoundland switchyard. Power was soon restored to some customers, with more gradually being brought back on line. Newfoundland Power did not have an estimate on when most customers would have power returned. 

An incident on Sunday night in the switchyard of hydro generating plant in Holyrood knocked out power for much of Newfoundland. (CBC )
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said there was no damage to its generating equipment. 

Numerous people reported seeing a green flash or heard what some assumed was an explosion. 

"People would have heard a loud boom. That's normal," Dalley told CBC News Sunday night, describing how a massive amount of steam was released. 

The sudden outage came just after Newfoundland Power, the private company that supplies much of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's energy to consumers, stopped a series of rolling blackouts to keep the power grid intact. 

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Sunday afternoon that she didn't think the power outages across the province constituted a crisis. (CBC)
Opposition Leader Dwight Ball said Sunday night that the development proves the province is in a full-blown energy crisis. 

The rolling blackouts started Thursday, but things took a dramatic turn for the worse on Saturday morning when a fire at the Sunnyside substation at around 9 a.m. caused an outage at the Holyrood generating station, throwing much of the island into darkness.

About 190,000 households, businesses and other customers were without power at the peak of the outage.

The fire began hours after a blizzard hit the region, dumping up to 40 centimetres of snow.

Setbacks through day 

Sunday opened on an optimistic note, but closed on a pessimistic one. Roughly 25,000 customers were without power Sunday morning, far less than the day before. That number climbed back up to 35,000 within a few hours, as increased demand strained the system.

The provincial utility is trying to bring power back for some by unplugging other areas on the system, according to Cowan.

"So they are trying to balance all of that right now. So even people who get power back, it is not that reliable," he said.

A photo of a reported fire at the Sunnyside station on Saturday morning. (Courtesy of Tor Fosnaes)

Utilities urged to conserve power, such as by not running clothes driers or dishwashers. They are also warned that the conservation effort could continue for weeks as the system stabilizes.

Speaking with reporters on Sunday afternoon, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the situation is not considered a crisis.

"When you have infrastructure that's 40 years old, you're going to have challenges," Dunderdale said.

"Combine those challenges with difficult weather conditions that we've certainly had in the last few days, high demand, very high demand, higher than we've seen in the last five years, then events like this are going to occur," she said. "There is a solution coming."

Amid criticism on social media that she hadn't spoken about the situation earlier, Dunderdale said the situation was not serious until Saturday.

"There's no reason to lose confidence in the power system. We have two great utilities in this province who understand the generation and supply of power to customers," she said.

Nalcor President Ed Martin said all resources are focused on repairing problems at the Holyrood plant to get people back on the grid.

He said of the three generating units at the site, one is fully operational, a second is partially running while awaiting a part replacement, but there have been problems with the third unit since Saturday night.

Schools staying closed, awaiting power restoration

Government announced on Sunday afternoon that all K-12 schools, Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic campuses on the island portion of the province would stay closed on Monday and Tuesday. Private schools and training institutions followed suit.

The closure is designed to conserve power as Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Newfoundland Power work to stabilize power services. Public schools and post-secondary institutions in Labrador will not be affected.

A Newfoundland Power employee working on restoring power in St. John's. (CBC)
St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said he supported keeping schools closed until at least Wednesday.

"We still have people without electricity, there's impending weather in terms of rain and freezing temperatures on Monday and Tuesday," he said.

"It gives also, aside from the energy aspect, it gives us, as a city, time to get out there and deal with the streets and deal as much as we can within the next few days with sidewalks and everything else."

According to O'Keefe, it would be best for the city and the school board alike if that extra time was given to allow the city to work on clearing sidewalks near the school, which he said wouldn't be completed until Wednesday at the earliest.

O'Keefe said parents and buses trying to get children to and from school could also pose possible dangers in less-than-ideal driving and walking conditions.

There were 65 homes in the St. John's neighbourhood of Kilbride without water Sunday afternoon.

A power outage at the upper pumping station in Kilbride caused the water loss. ​A generator is on the way to the site, but it isn't known whether the generator can be installed at the station.

Mayor O'Keefe said water will be sent to the homes if it can't be done, while further repairs are done to the site.

Eastern Health coping

Most Eastern Health facilities will be operating normally by Monday, at least in the St. John's area.

Vickie Kaminski, the CEO of Eastern Health, said power outages are impacting health centres in Burin.

She said the health authority will have to be certain the power is back for good before it decides to reopen the centre.

The facilities in Carbonear have also been dealing with some issues after leaking forced the closure of one of the operating rooms.

"One of our operating rooms there — we only have two in Carbonear — one of them was damaged, so it's a question of whether or not we can get that back in shape by Monday or if it's going to be later in the week," Kaminski said.

Rolling blackouts continue

Michelle Coughlan, a communications official with Newfoundland Power, said earlier Sunday that the majority of customers still without power are located on the eastern portion of Newfoundland.

"Our crews have been working hard, they're out and about, ready to reconnect those customers as soon as the generation becomes available," Coughlan said.

Newfoundland Power's 60-minute rolling blackouts resumed on Sunday to conserve power to help restore services to more customers. Coughlan said there were two reasons. 

"One is the limitations on the generation that we've been able to receive from Newfoundland and Labardor Hydro, and it's also focused on getting some of the power restored to our customers who have been without power since yesterday morning," Coughlan said.

The rotations stopped shortly before 9 p.m. N.T.

Coughlin said Newfoundland Power is advising companies to conserve as much energy as possible while the company works to restore power to other customers.

She said if residents notice their neighbours have power but their home is still without, it is likely an isolated incident that the company needs to look into and to contact them at 1-800-474-5711.

Newfoundland Power is bringing in workers from Prince Edward Island on Monday to help assist with restorations.

Metrobus Transit operations in St. John's were running normally Sunday morning, and flights at St. John's International Airport were also back to normal after yesterday's service interruptions.

Marine Atlantic crossings between Port aux Basques and North Sydney, N.S. are facing possible delays, but otherwise operating normally. The company is advising customers to continue to check for updates.


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