Longer outages at Hydro-Québec than elsewhere

Hydro-Quebec customers wait longer before being reconnected during outages than elsewhere, according to a comparative study of the public corporation’s poor rates.

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

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

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

Hydro-Québec is tied among this latter group with a wait of 248 minutes.

Quebec Auditor General Guylaine Leclerc described the data in a December report. The top performing group of companies takes an average of 91 minutes per person.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ figures are for 2020, but in its 2021 Sustainability Report, Hydro-Québec shows things aren’t getting any better: it now shows customers have to wait an average of 346 minutes during an outage.

To Hydro-Quebec’s credit, its Ontario rival isn’t doing 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 performance is so high,” explains François Bouffard, assistant professor in McGill University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“Hydro-Québec’s distribution network is located in a very large area, mostly in forested areas, with several parts in very isolated areas. In addition, it is in a region that is more affected by episodes of ice storms that significantly affect the electricity grid,” said Hydro-Québec spokeswoman Caroline Des Rosiers. She adds that Hydro-Québec is currently investing heavily to improve operations.

In his report, the Auditor General noted, however, that factors such as the size of the area covered by the network “do not explain the significant difference between the upward trend at Hydro-Québec over this period and the trend for other distributors.”

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

According to François Bouffard, a member of the IEEE, several factors may explain Hydro-Québec’s poor performance.

“The big difference is the lower density of the area, as we see with accidents during the holiday season. When we looked at the map, there were many isolated people. “It’s a logistical challenge to send the right teams to the right places with the right equipment.” He adds that the workforce is also shrinking, particularly due to the decline among liners in recent years.

“Another important issue that VG did not examine in its report is vegetation control. There is a very strong relationship between vegetation control efforts and the frequency and duration of cuts. This aspect is critical and should be given more attention,” he concludes.

Average outage time at 84 North American power distributors*

  • “Golden” group: 91 minute
  • “Silver” group: 127 minute
  • “Bronze” group: 168 minute
  • Hydro-Québec: 248 minute

Things are getting worse at Hydro-Québec **

  • In 2020, Hydro-Québec: 248 minute
  • In 2021, Hydro-Québec: 346 minute

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

** Source: Hydro-Québec’s 2021 Sustainability Report

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