Between 70% and 80% of Hydro-Quebec customers who are in the dark should have electricity back by the end of Friday evening, around midnight, the state-owned company said Thursday, at the time where icy power outages affected more than one million homes across the province.
“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 of ‘Hydro-Québec, Sophie Brochu, during a press briefing held at the company’s headquarters, in front of Jarry Park.
For the time being, 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 also accounts for approximately 50% of outages at present. Priority is given to citizens in danger, then to health facilities and emergency communication equipment.
Hydro’s vice-president of maintenance operations, Régis Tellier, says about a quarter of outages affect more than a thousand people. However, the situation seems to be “stabilizing” according to him, the number of new customers who report being in the dark has not been on the rise for a few hours.
“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”. “We have some poles on the ground, especially in Mirabel, but overall, it is mainly branches that have affected the network,” continued Régis Tellier.
Sophie Brochu calls on citizens to stay away from power lines, but also to “move their vehicles” away from sidewalks when these are obstructed, if possible, in order to let the approximately 1,100 employees at work perform the required connections. Teams from New Brunswick and Ontario could also provide assistance to Hydro-Québec in the coming hours, if necessary.
At his side, Pierre Despars, who will succeed him as CEO on April 11, thanked the employees of the state-owned company “who are going to have long days [Thursday] and [Friday], until everyone is hooked up,” he explained.
Last December, the Auditor General of Quebec Guylaine Leclerc noted in a report that Hydro-Québec “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.
For Sophie Brochu, he urges Quebec to begin 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.
It is not yet known which regions could be affected the longest. “Due to the large number of locations where our teams are required to respond and the therefore rapidly changing situation on the ground, it is not possible to give specific recovery times for each location,” the state-owned company said. in a tweet posted early Thursday.
Thursday morning, Hydro-Quebec reported that a significant number of its customers, 1,114,750 more precisely, were still without electricity. Of the number, there were 486,175 customers in the dark in Montreal, 199,115 in Montérégie, and 126,364 in Outaouais. In the latter region, more than one out of two Hydro-Québec customers has no electricity. Remember that all schools in Montreal are closed today due to the situation.