Politicians, business people and hydro officials want to know what Hydro One is doing to make sure the power stays on.
Oil Springs Mayor Ian Veen raised the alarm after the Jan. 20 power outage which affected people in his village, Enniskillen and Petrolia. The lights were out for as much as five hours in some places.
Veen says in the last six months there have been about eight power outages. The latest was during a cold snap and that had the mayor concerned. “When it’s -22 C, and you have senior citizens in the community – you can’t have people without heat,” he says.
Veen says the municipality sent workers to start the generator at the Oil Springs Youth Centre to open it as a warming centre.
And he says businesses, particularly people with oil fields, feel the effects of a power outage. “When the power is out, the lines are all freezing, they have to get up and check the lines …when you lose the power, you lose heat to the equipment. Everyone is up working when the power is out.”
In Petrolia, you don’t have to be in the oil fields to be up worried about power at your business. Jenny Morely is the co-owner of M&M Meats. She says the temperature of her freezers have to be monitored hourly during a power outage to ensure there is no food spoilage. The larger freezers can go up to 72 hours without power in some cases, but the display cases in the store have only hours. “The product in the merchandisers, once they reach below a certain temperature they have to be discarded…I’ve had that happen twice since in the four years I’ve been open…There is a lot of waste.”
Much of the area of the outage is served by Bluewater Power. Vice-president Alex Palamaki says the problem is originating with Hydro One. It’s in the middle of fixing a problem at the Wanstead Transformer station and when there is a problem, like that of Jan. 20, there isn’t a back up source.
“We suspect those are related to cold weather,” he says explaining that the extreme cold can make some of the wiring stretch to a breaking point. “We’ve asked for a customer briefing which will provide details of the outages.”
After looking at that Palamaki says Bluewater Power will arrange a meeting with Hydro One and local officials. “We need a higher level meeting to get to the bottom to make sure they are investing properly,” he says. “Ontario-wide that (reliability) is an issue…Hydro one customers face poorer reliability…and that may or may not be because of what it is investing.”
Ian Veen thinks that is where the problem is. “They (Hydro One) are wanting to buy utilities – if they can spend millions and millions buying these utilities they should fix some of the infrastructure we have.
Morely agrees. “The economy its hard already tough to make a go without having to deal with this…and it’s not happening once and a while its happening all the time.”