PEI

Maritime Electric spent more than $1M to clean up after November storm

A province-wide power failure late last fall cost more than one million dollars to repair, according to a report filed by Maritime Electric to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.

A report outling the problems was released at the end of January

Cost of the storm damage included replacing 149 broken poles, eight transformers and 2.5 kilometres of transmission and distribution lines. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A province-wide power failure late last fall cost more than $1 million to repair, according to a report filed by Maritime Electric to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.

"After every storm we generally do a post-mortem at Maritime Electric ... but for this one there was a number of challenges with this storm so we felt it was important to submit a formal report to the regulator," said Kim Griffin, communications manager for the utility. 

The storm hit the night of Nov. 28th, and by the morning of the 29th, power was out to all 80,000 Maritime Electric customers across P.E.I.

The report breaks down the damage that was done: 149 broken poles and 2.5 kilometres of power lines that needed to be replaced. Crews from all over eastern Canada were called in and worked double-shifts. 

Crews worked 16-hour days. Personnel included Maritime Electric crews, 23 private contractors and 12 mutual-aid crews from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario. (CBC)

"If anyone remembers from that storm, the assessments were changing every couple of hours about the damage across P.E.I. because it wasn't just east. It wasn't just west. It wasn't just central," said Griffin.

"We had damage all across Prince Edward Island. So it's almost like if you think about it as, you know a connection or trying to put all the pieces together, we had several moving parts."

The total cost of the fix was $1.14 million. This outage hit a new record — the average length of the power being off for customers was almost 16 hours, the report says. 

Why it took so long 

The report outlines what seemed to be the perfect storm of problems that caused the long outage. According to the report, the problems began when high-voltage transmission lines in central P.E.I. went down, followed by the failure of a back-up generator in Charlottetown.

As crews tried to fix that generator, there were complications when power coming from the New Brunswick side failed too. Further backups weren't there to help either: P.E.I.'s wind power is designed to shut down in a power outage, and since the outage went so long, emergency back-up batteries in substations ran out of power. 

Winds gusted to 100 km/h the night of Nov. 28, causing trees to fall on lines, and power poles to break, according to the report. (CBC)

Those are all issues the utility is now addressing. 

"I can honestly say after every storm we learn something and this storm was no exception," said Griffin. 

More answers are set to come. IRAC has sent back a list of follow-up questions about the faulty equipment and other problems, and Maritime Electric says it is now working on its answers.

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About the Author

Brian Higgins shoots video and reports news on Prince Edward Island.

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