Mayor ‘optimistically surprised’ by increase in service reliability since February
SOPHIE KUIJPER DICKSON
CHAPEAU September 14, 2023
Hydro Quebec (HQ) says since the major power outage Pontiac West saw in February of this year it has undertaken significant work to the region’s grid that should offer greater protection in the event of a similar power outage.
This work has included clearing vegetation from the lines in the area, making adjustments to breaker protections, to enable the region to take more load from the Quebec network when they’re having problems from Ontario, and installing connection points for generators to be attached to the region’s grid should another similar outage occur.
This update was presented at a town hall hosted by the municipality of L’Îles-Aux-Allumettes on Thursday evening, organized to address concerns residents of the area might have regarding the power outages the region has seen in recent years.
The event also featured presentations from CISSSO, Sureté du Québec and the provincial ministry of public security.
“We are prone to having a lot of power outages, sometimes without really any good reason,” said Chantal Lair, community development officer for the municipality.
“Following the three day outage last February, there was more of a push to try and get some answers from Hydro and get some more attention put onto the whole situation,” she said.
A study of HQ’s service delivery over the past two years found that on average, MRC Pontiac customers experienced 40.2 hours of outages in 2022, and 80.5 so far in 2023. Some municipalities were without power for 100 hours .
“That’s much too high,” said Alain Paquette, the company’s director of community relations for the Outaouais region, at the meeting.
Hydro Quebec has met with elected officials since the major outage earlier this year, but this was the first time the company spoke directly to the community.
Officials said an increased number of extreme weather events were partly to blame for the frequent power failures the region has seen in the past year.
Hydro Quebec engineer Francois Noiseux said other big reasons for L’Îles-Aux-Allumettes’ vulnerability to outages is that its power system is synchronized with Ontario’s.
He explained the outage in February was caused not by an inability to repair compromised power lines on the Quebec side, but because of issues moving from Ontario’s power grid to Quebec’s when Ontario’s was failing.
“When we did that we lost our Coulonge power plant,” Noiseux said.
He explained that when trying to get power back into a grid after a long outage, the larger demand makes the reboot more likely to fail.
L’Îles-Aux-Allumettes mayor Corey Spence says he believes the long term solution is to expand Hydro Quebec’s service area to include his municipality by way of extended transmission lines.
“Hydro Quebec is leading the way in green technology,” he said.
“That means all the homes are going to be heated by electricity, everybody is going to have an electric car, the trucks are going to need to be charging … that infrastructure is going to have to be put in. So I think it would have to come from Hydro Quebec.”
Hydro Quebec representatives at the meeting said they are looking into this option as part of a study of how to update the grid in the area, but estimated it would cost about $100 million.
The study will consider several different scenarios, and could take up to five years.
In the meantime, Spence says he’s seen improved services in the area he represents.
“I’m optimistically surprised about the reliability since February for our region,” he said.
A full live stream of the event is available on the Pontiac Ouest Facebook page.
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