Between 70% and 80% of Quebecers who are in the dark should be reconnected by the end of Friday evening, assures Hydro-Quebec. To achieve this, the state-owned company first intends to reconnect the most sensitive sectors. The task, however, is colossal: more than 1,100 employees will be deployed at any one time.

“We are deploying all we can in financial, human and technical resources to connect you as quickly as possible. […] It’s not because it’s hot that we’re going slower, and it’s not because it’s Easter that we won’t give our 100%, “assured the outgoing CEO on Thursday. of Hydro-Québec, Sophie Brochu, in a press briefing at the company’s head office.

At that time, more than a million Quebec homes lacked power. The good news, however, according to Hydro-Québec’s vice-president of maintenance operations, Régis Tellier, is that about a quarter of outages affect more than a thousand people.

The result: Interventions can be targeted, and much more effective, he says. Already on Thursday, the situation seemed to be “stabilizing”, the number of new customers who said they had no power having stopped increasing due to better weather conditions than the day before. Priority is given to citizens in danger, then to health facilities and communication equipment.

The regions most affected by the outages remain the Outaouais, where the ice storm arrived first, but also the Montérégie and Montreal. The Quebec metropolis accounts for approximately 50% of outages.

“It is estimated that approximately 70-80% of our affected customers will be reconnected by midnight Friday,” said Tellier, whose team aims to connect approximately 350,000 customers per day, Thursday and Friday. However, he is keen to make a “clear distinction” with the 1998 ice storm, which was much more serious “in terms of damage”.

Environment Canada also warned those with “bad memories of 1998” that the current weather scenario was “much different.” In 1998, we saw three storms and 100 millimeters of freezing rain in six days. This year, we are talking about a storm of 33 mm of freezing rain in one day, followed by a rapid thaw, recalled the organization.

Nevertheless, Sophie Brochu calls on the population to stay away from power lines, but also to “move [the] vehicles” away from the sidewalks when these are obstructed, if possible, in order to allow employees to carry out the connections. Teams from New Brunswick and Ontario could also provide assistance to Hydro-Québec in the coming hours, if necessary.

Last December, the Auditor General of Quebec, Guylaine Leclerc, noted in a report that Hydro-Quebec “is not adequately equipped to face the growing challenge of the aging of its assets”. As a result, the reliability of its electricity distribution service shows a “marked decline”, it noted.

We learned that breakdowns due to faulty equipment affected nearly 2 million customers in 2021. Since 2012, excluding major weather events, “the average duration of outages per supplied customer has increased by 63% and the number of outages is up by 16%”, wrote Ms. Leclerc in the same breath.

For Sophie Brochu, it is urgent that Quebec initiate a “societal discussion” on the development of longer-term energy “resilience”. “In recent years, we have increased investments in vegetation control to avoid as much as possible that the branches come into contact with the network,” she said.

Reiterating that this kind of weather event “is likely to happen again more and more”, the outgoing CEO of Hydro-Québec reiterates that “society must acquire stronger resilience”. “All the money in the world cannot be made just on the side of Hydro-Quebec. There is a discussion to be had on how one builds a place, a city. It’s a matter of society […] in front of what will be more and more difficult”, she hammered.

To increase resiliency across the province, Premier François Legault, meanwhile, says work is underway to provide smaller municipalities with “checkpoints, so people can go shower” for a while. such storms. His government, he says, is also “in the process of adding capacity” to Hydro-Quebec’s generation and workforce.