Nova Scotia Power is reporting its first outage of the morning… and other tales we shouldn’t hear

I woke up one recent morning and flipped on the radio. “Nova Scotia Power is reporting its first outage of the morning,” the newscaster began. It was not a storm day. Or the day after. Or even the day after that. We were in the middle of a brief winter storm interregnum. Skies were clear.

Another day, another news report. On Feb. 3, the Digby Courier reported 5,800 customers in Clare and Weymouth without power again — “just like yesterday.” The cause of the first outage: “damage to overhead equipment.” The cause of the second: “equipment failure.” Unrelated to the first, according to a Nova Scotia Power spokesperson.

What is going on?

A website called “Power Protection,” which promotes uninterruptible power supplies, states that, while snowstorms and lightning strikes “normally cause power outages,” Nova Scotia Power “has had some unusual causes to add to the list.” Crows, seagulls, squirrels… “The utility even blamed salt in heavy fog for brief, widespread outages in the Halifax area in 2006.”

Something is going on.

In July 2014, tens of thousands of Nova Scotia Power customers lost power for a week, thanks to post-tropical storm Arthur (note Art wasn’t even a hurricane by the time it hit us).

Public outrage led to public apology led to official report that led to… well, nowhere.

The report said the company needed better forecasting services so it would know what was about to happen before it did (good plan), an updated website (ditto) and an actual communications plan (ya think?) that actually communicated to customers so they’d know when to expect their lights to come on.

But the consultants the company hired said the utility’s response was “within industry norms.”

Really?

It is well past time the McNeil government and/or the Utility and Review Board ordered a comprehensive, independent audit of Nova Scotia Power’s performance going back to before it was turned back over the private sector in 1993.

Has Nova Scotia Power’s role as cash cow for parent Emera led to reductions in maintenance and emergency personnel, and/or a failure to update and maintain equipment?

We need to ask questions — and demand answers — or we’ll keep hearing yet another story about today’s first outage.

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Copyright 2016 Stephen Kimber, Website
  1. There will be no such independent audit. Ever. The monopoly will not be broken. Why? Because the wealthiest families in this province, NS’s 1% ers, receive a guaranteed dividend every year, it’s what pays their vacations and taxes. McNeil and the government are powerless to do anything. They will lose their power. That is what is going on. That, is the reality. Look at the largest shareholders. That will tell the story. And the 1%ers know that Nova Scotians will never rock the boat, will grumble, but always shut up in the end and do as they are told. Nova Scotians need to get angry. Citizens need to do more than grumble and cry into a cup of Tim Horton’s terrible coffee. Aren’t we a democracy? Are voters letting the 1% run this province? Yes.

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  2. I don’t remember outages ever being as common as they have been in recent years. My theory is that maintenance has been cut way back. Retired employees have not been replaced. There are far fewer crews out there doing the preventative work that’s necessary for good service. Is this one more example of shareholder dividends and executive salaries trumping service?

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