Power failures up by 140% – Allumettes outages set new record

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Allyson Beauregard

L’ISLE-AUX-ALLUMETTES – With 103 hydro outages in L’Isle-aux-Allumettes in 2019, there’s a new record in the municipality that far exceeds the decade’s top contender, 2016, which experienced 75. However, the duration of 2019’s outages was shorter at 2,675 minutes compared to 4,030 minutes in 2016.

Allyson Beauregard

L’ISLE-AUX-ALLUMETTES – With 103 hydro outages in L’Isle-aux-Allumettes in 2019, there’s a new record in the municipality that far exceeds the decade’s top contender, 2016, which experienced 75. However, the duration of 2019’s outages was shorter at 2,675 minutes compared to 4,030 minutes in 2016.
2019 tied 2016’s record as of October 31. At the time, David Gillespie, L’Isle-aux-Allumettes farmer who has been tracking the outages since 2009, estimated that if the decade’s monthly averages for November and December panned out, the total would reach 83 by the end of the year.
“There were four months this year that broke records and two that were very close,” said Gillespie. One of the record months was December with 16 outages, compared to 1 in 2016.
Since Gillespie started recording his data in 2009 (35 failures), the number of annual outages have tripled. “They progressively got worse from 2009 onward until three years ago when Hydro did a lot of brushing work. It got better after that for a while, but then started to get worse again,” he explained.
This time around in his year-end tabulation, Gillespie combined all of his data to calculate a ten-year average to compare results. According to the decade’s average, there were 54 outages, 2,444 minutes of failures, with an average of 45.5 minutes per failure, and 28 outages less than one minute. For 2019, the number of minutes per failure was less at 26 minutes, while the number of outages less than a minute more than doubled at 60.
Two lines, 221 and 224, feed the entire Upper Pontiac. Line 221 is synchronized with the Ontario grid and serves about 80% of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes while line 224 serves Chichester, Sheenboro, the village of Chapeau, and a rural part of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes. Traditionally, line 221 (which Gillespie records) has experienced a lot more interruptions than line 224, but that wasn’t the case in 2018 or 2019 where Gillespie estimated it experienced about 90% of line 221’s total.
“This is no longer just Chapeau’s problem; it’s affecting the entire Upper Pontiac. Can you imagine if Ottawa, Montreal or Gatineau had 75 outages in a year!? It just wouldn’t happen, so why are we second class citizens?” said Gillespie.  
In September, Anna Rozanova, a media representative for Hydro Québec, said the company is aware of the higher-than average outages in the Upper Pontiac, but it’s very difficult to pinpoint the cause.
After the exceptionally bad month in July (22 failures), Rozanova said a problem with their equipment was identified and repaired in August, resulting in a drastic decrease in outages for a couple months. Technicians began surveying the vegetation near the wires and trimming and removing potential threats last fall. 
Other than last year, the most outages were recorded in 2015 (70) and 2016 (75), with 63 in 2018.