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Power stays on in Yk this winter
'Fair span' since last power outage indicates headway in power corp outage reduction vows

Thandiwe Vela
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A more than three-month span since the city's last power outage is fuelling new talk around the water cooler.

Residents are taking notice of the seeming headway in efforts to reduce the number of power outages, as Northland Utilities Ltd. and supplier Northwest Territories Power Corporation confirm the last total system outage was on Oct. 19.

"Living in Yellowknife, you certainly notice a lack of power outages especially at this time of year when power is so critical. I certainly noticed personally the up-time in power is way better than it was in the summer," said Hughie Graham, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, recalling the time lost, and productivity and business disruptions suffered last year, which in the first eight months, saw a 50 per cent higher rate of outages than in the same period in 2011, according to the power corporation.

Public outcry over the number of power outages reached a fever pitch late last summer, prompting the power corporation to vow in mid-September to reduce the number of outages in the city by 70 per cent by 2015.

An 18-point plan was implemented, which included measures such as more bird deterrents put along power lines to the Bluefish power plant, a foot and air patrol of the line to Bluefish, and infrared and corona scans looking for damaged lines and weaknesses along the lines for the entire system. Modifications are being made to the transmission line crossing at the Yellowknife River.

"The preventative maintenance that the power corp is doing on transmission lines is obviously working," Graham said Wednesday.

"It's been great for the power company to respond to the outcries for a constant power supply in the summertime and it's a great indication that they're listening to the public by how good the power has been in the winter so far."

In contrast to the 50 per cent increase in outages in 2012 over 2011, since making the commitment to reduce the frequency of power outages by 70 per cent over three years last September, the power corp. is reporting outage rates 50 per cent lower than the rate in 2011, said chairman Brendan Bell.

"We have made some adjustments to our existing equipment and there's been some very good indications that we've made some improvements," Bell said. "It's a fairly good indicator but it's too early to start patting ourselves on the back just yet."

As the supplier of electricity to Northland Utilities Ltd., when the power corporation has a system-wide outage in Yellowknife, the utility also experiences a system-wide outage, so as part of its own measures to maintain reliable power to its customers, Northland Utilities has been focused on meeting regularly with the power corp., said Duane Morgan, manager of Northland Utilities.

"It's been a fair span now (since the last major system outage," Morgan said.

"Northland Utilities has always monitored the power flow into the city and where we're distributing it around. It's part and parcel of the operations aspect of any electric utility to do that monitoring and making adjustments so all of our customers have 24-hour power."

In addition, the utility has been vigilant about responding promptly to any human interference, such as a vehicle collision with a power pole last month, with technicians on call, said Kevin Lailey, operations superintendent.

While the service providers are pleased with the reduction of power outages so far, the real proof will come in the summertime, when animals, lightning, and other natural problems will come into play.

"We still have a lot of work to do and the proof will be in the next lightning season, as to how well we've managed to mitigate some of the issues we've had to deal with," Bell said.

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