Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas power outage

The government has some precautions for life without electricity. Please take them seriously, there have already been tragedies this season.

As of Christmas eve, 4,000 homes are still without power here in NS. I'm lucky, but even still I lost power on Christmas morning from about midnight to 5am or so. I got a small generator a couple of years ago, having twice lost my fridge and freezer contents to multi-day outages. Hurricane Juan and the white Juan snowstorm produced understandable multi-day outages. But there have been a few others, including the infamous salty fog. BTW, wouldn't salty fog affect NB, PEI and NL just as much?

As of Christmas eve NB Power, a provincial crown corporation, reports zero outages here. Maritime Electric, a subsidiary of Fortis, doesn't report outages but I believe there were few or none. As of 11am on boxing day NS Power still reports 100-500 outages in Cape Breton. I can't find any meterological references that say the recent weather in NS was significantly different from PEI, NB or Maine - yet they all offered extra crews to help NS, having already handled their own problems.

NS Power has been the dominant topic of conversation for holiday get-tothers so far this season. And no one - nobody - has anything at all negative to say about the linemen crews working through the holidays in very windy conditions. Everyone (100%) knows they're doing their best and were generally tolerant or satisfied with the rate of restoration.

Complaints surrounded the question "Why did NS have so many more outages than neighboring provinces?" Honestly, I don't know. But I do wonder where there is a profit motive in building a more resiliant power grid. I'm not sure of the exact figure, but I think residential rates are fairly close between NS and NB, NB maybe 7% higher.

I'm not suggesting NS Power be re-purchased by the province, although I'd like to see a study of re-purchasing just the distribution system, which would become a power broker between producers and consumers. The distribution system is the monopoly, not the generation system. When you have the same company running both the generation and distribution, you risk unfair competition between in-house generation and competing suppliers, such as wind farms. I'm not sayin' nutin', I'm just sayin' is all ;-)

Anyway, I'm just fed up with multi-day outages. Occassional outages are to be expected of course. Surely we can do better. Monopolies must be regulated. Some of the benefit they derive from a monopoly position must be returned to the public, and not necessarily reflected in price alone. How about service guarantees?

1 comment:

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