UPDATED: Utility and Review Board to review Nova Scotia Power response to Arthur

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What happened with the electrical grid when Arthur hit is going to be examined by the province's Utility and Review Board. 

Premier Stephen McNeil announced in Middleton that the government and the UARB have agreed to a priority review of Nova Scotia Power's response to the July 5 post-tropical storm.

Speaking outside of his constituency office, along with Energy Minister Andrew Younger and minister responsible for EMO Mark Furey, McNeil said there are still 1,300 customers without power on July 11, including his own family. He acknowledged the loss of food was a burden on low-income and other vulnerable Nova Scotians.

"Many Nova Scotians experienced extreme frustration with the difficulties they had in getting information in the wake of this storm," the premier said in a media release. "Many of our most vulnerable citizens were placed in potentially dangerous situations as a result of going without power for an extended period of time.

"The minister of energy has spoken with the chair of the UARB and they have agreed this requires further investigation to examine Nova Scotia Power's preparedness and response to the storm. I do commend the hard work of the dedicated workers who restored power, but the enormity and severity of the outages were unacceptable and warrant an in-depth review."

In a letter to the board, government has asked the scope of the investigation include: 

-- storm preparedness

-- staffing levels

-- vegetation management

-- inbound and outbound communications 

-- state of transmission and distribution infrastructure 

"Arthur is the first named storm for 2014, so if there are immediate improvements that can be made, we want them to be done expeditiously," Younger said. "We hold our utility to the highest standards, and we need to understand why it has taken so long to restore power and why people weren't properly informed."

According to the government statement, there will be a debriefing of "key infrastructure partners, including Nova Scotia Power, Eastlink, Bell Aliant and others, next week to review emergency response efforts."

"Significant storms always carry the risk of infrastructure loss, but we need to identify what can be done to minimize this loss," said Furey. "We'll also be taking a close look at how all organizations responded to the emergency to identify areas for improvement before we're hit with another significant storm."

The Utility and Review Board will release information about its process next week, the release sad. The public will be invited to participate.

Nova Scotia Power issued a media release in response, noting that the utility welcomes the review. 

 “We always review our performance after every significant storm and look for lessons we can learn to perform better,” said Nova Scotia Power president and chief executive officer Bob Hanf in the release. “With a major storm like Arthur, a review process with the Utility and Review Board is appropriate, given the impact of the storm and the number of Nova Scotians who were affected. We look forward to any learnings this review can provide. We will begin working to compile data for the review next week; right now, our first and only priority must be safely restoring power to the last of our customers who are out.” 

"Over the past four years, Nova Scotia Power has spent more than $70 million extra on storm hardening the electricity system, above and beyond its normal $60 million reliability budget," the power company's release said. 

Organizations: Annapolis County Spectator

Geographic location: Middleton

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  • Theresa M. Taylor
    July 17, 2014 - 18:37

    July 11, 2014 Mr. Stephen McNeil 1726 Hollis Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2Y3 Re: 75 hrs., 13 mins without power! Dear Mr. McNeil, I write to you today; not only as the Premier of Nova Scotia, but as my local MPP as well. It is with deep regret that I admit you are in a very difficult position with Nova Scotia Power after our recent and early start to hurricane season. However; having admitted to your challenging position at this time, I am steadfastly convicted to my beliefs that yourself, Mr. Bob Hanf, CEO of Nova Scotia Power and Mr. Wayne O’Connor, Operations manager, need to not focus on the figures on paper, i.e. 90,000 customers without power, and acknowledge the human suffering as well. Specific to ourselves, I testify that on the 27th and the 30th of June my husband and I supplied our home with our monthly food requirements from our pensions. Immediately 5 days later we succumbed to a massive power outage with our immediate and provincial neighbours. At first this did not alarm us as Nova Scotia Power outage line informed us that sometime Sunday our power should be restored. Subsequently, on Sunday we were informed that possibly Monday our power should be restored. Now I accept that Nova Scotia Power was ill prepared and technically inadequate to properly manage the customer information services during this outage; however, if I may point out that the automated message also included “you can follow our progress on our website @ …”, really, how do we do that? The monetary panic enveloped me on Thursday (July 10th) when I was required to revisit and repurchase our fridge supplies so that we may sustain ourselves for the month. This subjected us to financial distress the likes of which we probably share with more than ½ our community as we are predominately pensioners! Even our community center was ill prepared as Sat and Sun there were no provisions available, and Mon when they did get up and running, with vegetable soup made from one of their defrosted freezer of vegetables, they blew up the generator!. So the fire halls were providing beverages, phone charging and water bring your own container; however, the travel to these locations was somewhat preventable as when will we be able to refill our gas tanks? Service stations could not operate without power! Even our AVR radio was not transmitting for three full days leaving us with Saint John NB as our only source of information, and that was all New Brunswick for obvious reasons! Please be aware and acknowledge that power outages have human repercussions, and that it is not always just numbers on paper! That substantial bonus earned by certain individuals within Nova Scotia Power should be reflected on the paying public customer service received, and not just on the profits that is earned for the incorporated business of providing power. We; who are prisoner to this company, are held by them solely because we have no alternative competition of which to switch to for electrical power! Sincerely Theresa M. Taylor

  • Bocephus
    July 17, 2014 - 07:26

    There was a storm and trees fell on power lines. How is this news? If you have $1000 worth of groceries in your fridge and freezer, but a $500 generator and use it when the power goes out. This isn't origami, it's common-sense. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Don't whine because you weren't prepared. Power outages happen. Prepare or suffer. Put on your big kid pants and quit whining.

  • fraser cochrane
    July 13, 2014 - 09:29

    They are a shareholder held company , They only have to be responsible to the shareholders and not the people. They have a monopoly and know that no one in NS can leave them as customers so they don't have to pander to the people only the shareholders. NS power made sure Michelin had power above and beyond people living in their homes because they are a good customer.( Companies are not people ) Shareholders don't spend a cent in prevention. Only on when their money stops coming in do they do any real work in the lines. Why doesn't NS power and the NS gov't make it mandatory to put all power lines under ground like the UK ? The UK also has 3 or more power companies who compete to have your business bring prices down and the level of service up. The NS gov't should make it against the law to have essential services held by shareholder held companies and monopolies.

  • Concerned but hoping for better ervice
    July 11, 2014 - 17:34

    Glad the premier agrees with all Nova Scotian's. We've know of these issues since having to pay more. Resulting in NS Power filling their pockets but laying off linesman. Why are other energy companies not allowed to operate in Nova Scotia. I was once a Bullfrog Power paying customer but, having to pay bullfrog to use NS Power sources. While still having to pay my monthly NS power bill, it became to much of a bill. I hope that other energy companies like Bullfrog are allowed to send applications to the UARB. We deserve more say when choosing energy sources.

  • eileen hines
    July 11, 2014 - 15:14

    What a load of shit. As if we need another review, same old excuses from NSP and whatever party is in power....Better start shoveling....we have a large farm to cover!!!!

  • concerned survivor
    July 11, 2014 - 15:02

    O Boy, just what we need,, some more hot air right after the hurricane ! Why isn't he in Ottawa lobbying Harper and the national disaster fund like the Premiers of Alta. Ontario. BC.,, First Nations. Sask , Manitoba. Quebec etc etc all do when these terrible weather related disasters hit their Provinces ??? And please. please. please Mr MacNeil. do not send me one of those useless. " hunker down certificates " !

    • R. Swicker
      July 12, 2014 - 20:04

      Disaster?! Are you kidding me? A few hundred people have been inconvenienced with no power...a few bags of frozen peas were defrosted, they couldn't watch Dancing With The Stars this week, this was nowhere close to being considered a disaster.

    • Ryan
      July 13, 2014 - 15:15

      This is hardly a natural disaster that deserves going to Ottawa to lobby for. BTW, it's McNeil....

    • ScarecrowMama
      July 14, 2014 - 16:33

      R. Swicker a few hundred people inconvenienced? While I don't consider it a "disaster" that should have resulted in a week with no power keep in mind that there were several thousand people who lost hundreds and thousands of dollars in food and wages. Don't make it seem like a few hours without power. Our generators only ran 2/3rds of our barn because we loaned one to a neighbor for their house. This resulted in a production loss of about $4000 for us. We were fine on days 1 through 5 without power. It was day 6 and 7 that broke us. Our neighbours generator failed on day 3 and they lost a freezer full of food - about $900 worth. If you think it's about a bag of peas and a tv show I've never watched you are ill informed or deliberately ignorant.

  • Bill Boyd (No Relation)
    July 11, 2014 - 12:51

    'bout time. A radical overhaul is long overdue and it what power bill paying consumers deserve. Introduce some competition while you're at it. Nothing like free market conditions with watchdog regulation to get consumers the best deal.

  • rob
    July 11, 2014 - 12:03

    I bet McNeil uses a big club to beat up NSP . Likely made of a feather

  • Gloria Macdonald
    July 11, 2014 - 11:39

    Yes this should be done and those in the top jobs in NSLP should pay for the damage that has been done where people have lost the food they had in fridges and deep freezers. I have a question -Could the NSLP taken from private hands and put back in government hands.