Your Top 5 Outage-Related Questions Answered

January 12, 2016

Kevin Lalonde Featured
We're proud of the work our crews do to get the power back up, often during challenging conditions. We still understand it's frustrating when the lights go out. We recently had the chance to sit down with Kevin Lalonde, Director, Business Support Services at SaskPower, to ask him some of the questions we often hear about outages.
  1. Why do planned outages seem to happen at the worst time for me?

    We get it – outages are inconvenient when you're getting ready for work, putting dinner on the table or watching the game on TV. When we schedule planned outages, usually to make essential upgrades or repairs, we have to take many factors into account. We always avoid scheduling work at night if possible, as low visibility is a safety concern for this high risk work. During the day, planned outages can disrupt businesses, schools and other essential services. Truthfully, there just isn't a good time of day for an outage. The good news is that the work we do on scheduled outages will help prevent surprise outages in the future.

  2. Knowing that Saskatchewan can experience extreme weather, why not build the system to stand up to these conditions?

    Electrical systems are designed to withstand some ice build-up, but even the best designed systems get tested in a place like Saskatchewan. Our province is fairly unique in the world. We regularly experience very low temperatures with very high winds. When ice build-up is mixed with these high winds it causes the lines to "gallop", which can in turn create huge stress on the power lines and cause them to fail. We do our best to prevent weather-related outages, but we can't eliminate them. What we can do is pull up our socks and get out there to fix the problem as quickly as possible, and as soon as it is safe for our crews to do so.

  3. Why does my neighbourhood seem to have more outages than others?

    It's true that some areas are more vulnerable to unplanned outages than others. This is mostly due to the age of the infrastructure in that area. We're in a challenging time. A lot of our equipment and infrastructure around the province has reached the end of its lifespan. We have been and will continue to make significant investments in our system, but this is a steady process that balances the need for improvements with the need to keep rates as low as possible.

  4. Animals, tree branches, weather... why don't you just bury all the power lines?

    Sometimes burying power lines makes sense. Buried lines certainly look better. However, moving power lines underground isn't necessarily better for outages. While we might get less birds and squirrels causing problems, there are plenty of critters digging under the dirt as well. Tree roots can pose problems and lines can be contacted when workers are digging for various reasons.

    Bottom line: when lines are buried, we can't see them, and it's much more difficult to diagnose and fix the problem when the power goes out. Buried lines are also much more expensive – about twice as much to build and operate over their lifespan as overhead lines.

  5. Why can't you tell me right away when the power will come back on?

    Identifying and repairing an unplanned outage is a process that can take time and a good amount of effort. There's a common myth that a blinking light on a screen tells us exactly where the problem is, but that's not how it works.

    When an unplanned outage occurs, we rely on customers to first let us know there is a problem. Once the outage area has been identified, our crews go out and patrol the power lines until the source of the issue is found. In urban areas, this can take a shorter amount of time. In some rural areas, this can mean literally walking into the bush or driving many kilometres until we find the problem. After all of that, the real work to fix the outage begins.

 

Quotables:

"Truthfully, there just isn't a good time of day for an outage. The good news is that the work we do on scheduled outages will prevent surprise outages in the future. "

"We do our best to prevent weather-related outages, but we can't eliminate them. What we can do is pull up our socks and get out there to fix the problem as quickly as possible, as soon as it is safe for our crews to do so."

"There's a common myth that a blinking light on a screen tells us exactly where the problem is. That's not how it works."

 

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