June 3, 2023

The Queens County Citizen

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More outages at Hydro-Québec than anywhere else

More outages at Hydro-Québec than anywhere else

Hydro-Quebec customers wait longer than elsewhere before being reconnected during outages, according to a comparative study where the state corporation’s charges are lower.

That’s according to a 2021 annual analysis from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) based on data from 84 electricity distributors in North America.

The report divides the companies into three groups based on their performance.

In the worst group, the average wait time after an interruption was 168 minutes.

Hydro-Québec dunes into this last group with a wait of 248 minutes.

Quebec’s auditor general, Guylaine Leclerc, outlined this data in her December report. The best performing group of companies averaged 91 minutes per outage.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers figures are for 2020, but in its own 2021 Sustainability Report, Hydro-Québec shows that conditions are not improving: customers now have to wait an average of 346 minutes during a breakdown.

To Hydro-Quebec’s credit, its Ontario competitor isn’t faring much better. In 2021, Hydro One customers waited an average of 390 minutes.

But a nuance is necessary because Hydro One mainly serves rural areas.

“In big cities like Ottawa or Toronto, local distributors provide electricity. This partly explains why Hydro One’s indicators are so high,” explains François Bouford, associate professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at McGill University.

“Hydro-Québec’s distribution network is largely spread over forested land, with many parts of a very large area in very isolated areas. In addition, it is located in an area that is more severely affected by episodes of snowstorms, which have a significant impact on the electricity network,” said Hydro-Québec spokeswoman Caroline Des Rosiers said. Hydro-Québec is currently investing heavily to improve things, she adds.

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However, the auditor general noted in his report that factors such as the size of the territory covered by the network “do not explain the significant difference between the upward trend in Hydro-Québec over this period and the trend of other distributors.”

According to a report by the Auditor General of Quebec, since 2012, the average duration of outages per customer supplied has increased by 63% and the number of outages by 16%.

According to François Bouford, also an IEEE member, several factors could explain Hydro-Québec’s poor performance.

“The big difference is the low density of the terrain, as we saw during the breakdowns during the holiday season. When we look at the map, there are a lot of single people. The logistical challenge is sending the right teams to the right places with the right equipment,” he said. He said that they are becoming less available.

“Another important thing, but not studied by VG in its report, is vegetation control. There is a very strong relationship between vegetation control efforts and the frequency and duration of disruption. This aspect is critical and needs more attention,” he concluded.

Average duration of outages at 84 North American electricity distributors*

  • “Gold” group: 91 minutes
  • “Silver” group: 127 minutes
  • “Bronze” group: 168 minutes
  • Hydro-Québec: 248 minutes

It’s getting worse at Hydro-Québec **

  • Hydro-Québec in 2020: 248 minutes
  • Hydro-Québec in 2021: 346 minutes

* Source: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 2021 Annual Review, 2020 data

** Source: Hydro-Québec’s 2021 Sustainable Development Report