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

Published on July 11, 2014

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.