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Oshawa electric utility shines light on blackout statistics
Resident says south Oshawa gets ‘raw deal’ on electricity outages
July 11, 2014
Reka Szekely

While the 2013 numbers show Oshawa’s electricity supply is very reliable, at least one resident is questioning if the system performance is consistent across the city.

Despite the December ice storm, the OPUC’s reliability was second only to Whitby Hydro when compared to nearby power companies, a report presented to Oshawa council in June revealed.

Oshawa customers were out of power for an average 411.6 minutes in 2013. That was better than the average for Veridian Connections and Toronto Hydro, which both had 1,200 minutes, and PowerStream in York Region at 640.8 minutes. Whitby Hydro customers were only out for an average of 297 minutes.

Oshawa PUC had a total of 148 outages lasting more than five minutes in 2013. Of those, 40 per cent were due to animal contact, mainly squirrels. OPUC officials have installed animal guards on all transformers and the number of outages due to squirrel contact was down 21 per cent compared to 2012.

The second biggest factor was defective equipment, causing 32 per cent of outages.

The remaining outages were a mix of scheduled outages, tree contact and other causes.

In its report, the OPUC divided urban Oshawa into four quadrants plus the downtown and the rural area in the north. The utility supplied information on feeder outages in 2013 that lasted longer than five minutes. The largest number of outages was experienced in the northwest with 41 in 2013, followed by 40 in the southeast. The lowest number, three, was in the downtown, which is geographically the smallest area. The northwest and southwest each had 19 outages and there were 13 in the rural area.

Oshawa resident Tom Mitchell said he didn’t think the OPUC provided information that was useful to residents and called for a clearer report showing the specific areas impacted by outages.

“There’s no geographical link for anything, the boundaries are not identified, the areas served by the feeders are not identified,” he said.

Mr. Mitchell said the perception in his community is that south Oshawa experiences more outages.

“After the ice storm on Facebook and going around talking to my neighbours I found a lot of people who feel the same as I do that we get a raw deal down there,” he said, though he added that he does believe that reliability has improved in the last two years.

Atul Mahajan, president and CEO of the Oshawa PUC Networks, said planners don’t look at the system on a north and south basis, but rather look at it as a whole. He said there’s a five-year plan and every year there are improvements throughout the system.

“The whole city has older equipment and we’re refreshing it,” said Mr. Mahajan.

He said some years the south shows more outages and in other years it’s the north. The Oshawa PUC benchmarks interruptions in the same manner as other Ontario utilities and according to the report presented to councillors, the Oshawa’s reliability performance in 2013 was very high at 99.922 per cent reliability.

Still, Mr. Mitchell pointed out that while the system average was less than seven hours for the year, some folks saw a significantly larger outage during the ice storm.

“We know that in the ice storm there was a 27-hour outage down in the southwest,” he said.

With respect to the ice storm, Mr. Mahajan said it was one of the biggest weather events the province had ever experienced.

“Are we pleased about that? Not at all,” said Mr. Mahajan of the lengthy outage. “Was it an event that could be managed in a shorter period of time? I don’t think so. It had to be done very methodically, it had to be done safely.”

Councillor Amy England put forward a motion asking for more information on the 2013 outages, including the duration of the outages and the location of the feeders.

Following the meeting, Mr. Mahajan said he believes the best way to address residents’ concerns is to have a conversation with them.

“I really believe no amount of charts and PowerPoints will be as effective as one-on-one dialogue,” said Mr. Mahajan.