Newfoundland’s (No) Power Problem

I’m tired of it. Tired of people accusing Newfoundlanders of being weak, nish, of people like Trevor Taylor, who I respect in many ways, telling us to stop complaining. I’m sick of people telling us to shut up about the trees when we’re all complaining about the forest. Although some people were impacted in terrible ways over the last few days of what people on twitter call #darknl, we aren’t complaining about a power outage or a storm. At least most of the people I know aren’t. Storms and power outages are not new to us. Certainly not to me. Where I grew up, power outages were common and there were several Christmases in a row where we had snow storms and power outages at Christmas time. You deal. Maybe moan a bit but you deal. What’s happening now in Newfoundland is a totally different matter and worthy of complaint. This is complete incompetence and a lack of preparedness on the part of the organizations and people who are supposed to provide us power.

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Now let me make myself very clear. I don’t mean the front-line workers. I sure as hell have nothing bad to say about those amazing, fantastic heroes who work in the snow and the wind and every other bit of weather mother nature can throw at us to get us our power back. The workers at Newfoundland Power, the lines-people who give their all to keep us powered up, have my utmost respect and thanks. I’d shake the hand of each and every one of you. Same for the front-line workers at Newfoundland Hydro.

It’s the decision makers that have me angry enough to walk around the house bitching to the walls and my poor Christmas tree that finished out its annual visit to my house, unlit and unloved. I’m so angry and frustrated that this is happening and people are focusing it down small enough to be an issue about a weekend snowstorm. Or the definition of the word crisis. Or where Kathy Dunderdale was when this all started. Call it ‘crisis’ or ‘critical time’ or ‘challenge’ or ‘obstacles’ but the schools have been shut down for three days, we’ve been told to conserve our electricity, perhaps for an extended period of time and places are running out of gas. And it’s because we don’t have enough power, or the powers-that-be don’t know if we have enough power to open schools or for us to all do a load of laundry in the evening or turn up our heat in the morning.

I don’t know about the politics of this. I don’t know if Kathy Dunderdale knew whether or not this problem was on the horizon or could have done anything about it. I hope the government at least thought that everything was okay.

The details can be hassled about. I read that there were four projects to improve Holyrood that were cancelled the day after the Muskrat Falls deal was signed. I read that, in spite of representatives of NL Hydro telling us that the load on our system was unforeseen, a report from 2011 predictedthat loads would be higher than they’ve been recently (1550mws was the load that Hydro said was unforeseen but, according to one source, a government document show a forecast of 1632mws peak load in 2013). I know that rolling blackouts were necessary and we were asked to conserve energy before a snow storm and before a fire at a transmission station. I believe that these two incidents have become scapegoats and I’ve heard them referred to by government and hydro representatives as the things that caused these power problems. I know that Newfoundland in winter is cold. Maybe not really, really cold but cold and it has been many, many times before. This is not surprising to anyone but the people who provide power here, I think. I also heard that a couple of major parts of the Holyrood generating plant are shut down and undergoing routine maintenance. In January!

Even if we get everything back to normal in a few days, and I certainly hope we do, I want to know that my power company can give us power. That when it gets cold in Newfoundland in the winter, (gasp!) we don’t have to sit in the dark in dirty clothes so we can all conserve power or worse, that people who don’t have money for generators and a stockpile of canned goods are not literally left in the cold by our provincial hydro company.

In response to those who have said that this was a perfect storm of problems, I say again, the rolling blackouts started before the fire at Sunnyside and the snowstorm this past weekend. And as for these problems and the cold? I’m reminded of a conversation with my children only a short time ago. We were trying not to be late for an appointment but we were stuck in traffic because of a car accident. I had left too late and now was going to be late. My son said, well, there’s traffic so they should understand. I explained that I should have left earlier. That it’s my responsibility to leave early enough to allow for things like bad weather or slow traffic. That, to be responsible, we have to be prepared.

So, for the people NL Hydro who didn’t foresee the cold or allow for the possibility that a power station could be disabled, by fire or any other means, or thought that shutting down and performing maintenance on power generating equipment in January in this province was a good idea, take a lesson from me that I taught to my children. Be prepared. Be prepared for the best of times but also for the worst of times because, just like Nan said, better to be safe than sorry. Especially if your lack of preparation will lead to hardship for people, and danger to many others. I’m not up on the great power debate so I don’t care if you do it via Muskrat Falls or Holyrood or Sunnyside or a big wind turbine on Duck Island, I just want you people to do it and be prepared. Take that from someone who wouldn’t be able to fire up enough power to light a bulb with a potato but manages a household and had enough beverages, batteries, and grub on hand in case of an outage. Because I was prepared. And while I’m at it, let me say it in my nicest, motherly voice: my sweethearts, if you aren’t prepared, then own up to it, admit that you were wrong, and say you’re sorry. It’s the least people who are depending on you deserve. All right, my darlings? Now, go back to it again and do your best. No, wait, don’t do your best. Do the kind of job the workers at Newfoundland Power do when the lines go down and they don’t give up until it’s all fixed. Yes, thank you now.

50 thoughts on “Newfoundland’s (No) Power Problem

  1. if our government would take the blinders off and put just $10,000 a day of the $there are plenty of rats in this 1,000,000 a day they are wasting at muskrat falls and put it into keeping up our power infrastructure we would not have had this mess ,there are plenty of rats in this puddle and they are not all at muskrat falls.

  2. First of I you have summed it up very well, one other comment I would like to add is that this City could learn a lesson from this situation and STOP WASTING our precious power! The rest of this province has to suffer because of the massive amount of wastage. Is it necessary to have all those lights illuminating parking lots of vehicles past business hours? I think not! And is it necessary to illuminate a house with so many outside lights? This list of energy wastage is massive in this city and unfortunately from recent and ongoing power outages and blackouts adequate planning has not been done to keep up. I believe before we put seniors in harms way, asking households not to do laundry, stay cold in your homes ; businesses and the power gougers should have been forced to hit the switch!!!

  3. Love it! You’ve summed it up exactly in my opinion, and looks like many others as well. Thank you! πŸ™‚

  4. well said you put in to my the words I would have used. we are all behind you ,exccept for the people who had wood stoves and generatters . also this is for Courtney , she said it would have cost ST JOHNS 270 thousands if they didn’t go a head it the hockey game. well there is more to this province then ST JOHNS if you are not aware off. I never asked them to get a hockey team here ,but Iwas in the dark and cold .

  5. we here in nl have all been put in the dark because a few people at the top decided among themselves to delay repairs to our power station in hope that we would have gobal warming winter.and mayby pocket a bit of the savings.I retired from a large world wide company who ran their company the same..

  6. Couldn’t have said any better than Con O’Brien! As a matter of fact all comments hit the nail on the head ,as the saying goes! My sentiments exactly!

  7. Very well said! Your frustration reflects the views of many people of the province and puts a voice to all of us who are left scratching our heads with the this whole “situation”. What I have learned now is to always be prepared. Prepared for anything! Times it seems are changing and I feel we have not seen the last of our Province leaving us “out in the cold”. I commend you for your views and will definitely share your comments. Shame on them for letting the people of this province go through hardships and struggles that could have been avoided. I feel for those who were NOT prepared and have to go through this awful weather in the cold and darkness.

  8. Well said indeed! And I agree with Scot about the need to diversify our sources of energy. Why allow ourselves to be entirely dependent on one system? Why do we put up with a monopoly like this? Bad business, surely, and undemocratic; far to easy for the powers that be to keep us gridlocked, handcuffed, left with no choices but to accept a huge mega-project like Muskrat Falls and the whims and wants of those who will profit most from it.

  9. To Phyllis…..”Shut up, Shit happens”??? YOU have got to be friggin’ kidding!!! Is that your advice to the families of the people who have lost their lives because of this “Non- Crisis” ???? They weren’t as you put it “resilient enough to with stand a few power outages”. SERIOUSLY???????

  10. That was a very well written criticism of government and the people who run nl power.i agree with you totally with your criticism of cathy dunderdale and ed martin they knew this was coming yet they put 1000s of people in the dark literally you got to have a backup plan in place for unforseen circumstances 3 people are dead and 7 more are in hospital because of their ineptitude and lack of planning at nl hydro, nalcor and premier dunderdale is at the forefront

  11. To the one who commented about why a hockey game was still allowed to proceed, it did so because otherwise, the city would be fined 275,000 dollars for denying the game to happen. That’s hockey, that’s the way it works. I agree that it sucks we could use energy for a game and not schools, however, the repercussions from not good ahead with that hockey game are pretty serious too.

  12. Phyllis, that’s exactly the kind of comment I meant when I said, ” I’m sick of people telling us to shut up about the trees when we’re all complaining about the forest.” You are very focused on the trees. And good with exclamation marks, as well. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comment.

  13. grow up! shit happens and if you aren’t resilient enough to withstand a little power outage and a few extra days off school then you are not a true nflder!! We, as a province, have gone through many years of hardship far worse than this. If all you can offer is”bitch,bitch,bitch…” you are not helping, just adding to the negativity. SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I lived through many blackouts in both newfoundland and ontario,,,It seems to me at present that this is a sadistic plan by premier dunderdale to force the people of newfoundland into accepting the provinces biggest folly since confederation. She obviously has an agenda as far as muskrat falls is concerned. I do believe there was a time in history where poor sir richard squires had to flee colonial building dressed as a woman to escape the angry mobs. perhaps its time for nflders to buy miss dunderdale a pair of trousers and give her a 15 minute head start.

  15. i would like to know y the schools are closed and hockey games at mile one are going ahead

  16. I agree, so true, although I can see an excuse to raise your electricity bill in the near future, and all of the top executives will be getting a raise, the tax payer gets hit with a higher light bill.

  17. Are we living in a third world country? It would appear so. Rolling blackouts because of insufficient power would certainly make us qualify.

  18. This are all very well thought out comments and I agree with 99% of them. The biggest issue that comes back to my mind is a 49 year old man lost his life because of the blackouts, 2 more because of blackouts, and many more could have because of blackouts. Isn’t this enough for total outrage. I am so mad and sad at the same time.

  19. Apparently Ontario GIVES away hydro to cities like New York City because we have too much. But the taxpayers are still paying through the roof rates!!! Figure that one out.

  20. Good Luck Guys. Here in Ontario the Big Wigs get 6 figure bonuses(no kidding) for screwing up and wasting taxpayers dollars. Can’t imagine it’s that much different there. They are the “Powers that Be”. No pun intended!

  21. We need more supplementary systems on the grid like wind power…to help mitigate fluctuations in demand, curtail intermittency, provide system stability and of course, increase supply. You can’t just start firing up diesel generators that have been sitting idle for heavens knows how long and expect efficiencies. We need to diversify our energy protfolio and stop relying on an antiquated system!

  22. We have all been asked to use less electricity. That, under the circumstances, seems to be a fair request. My question is why is it that towns, and by towns I mean the town councils, I can specifically say Harbour Grace, have Christmas lights still burning during a time when half the town has no power? I took a drive around the other night when I looked out my window and saw that the people who live on the next street over from me had power and I was still freezing. Low and behold the Christmas lights around the Spirit of Harbour Grace were lit up the same as if there were no problems. In the recent election the whole council of Harbour Grace was newly voted in. I voted for each and every one of them. I mean it, the mayor and every council member that are in now got my vote. I couldn’t have been happier when the election results came in. Time for a big change was what I was thinking. These people have to lead by example. If the town itself will not do what is asked of them how came they expect the people of the town to do it?

  23. I am an Albertan, and when I heard about the storm and rolling blackouts in NL I was floored! In Alberta we have rolling blackout IN THE SUMMER when we all turn on our ac units to beat the heat, not in the dead of winter during a snowstorm! Its absolute insanity that your provincial government expects you to accept rolling black outs and school closures during the winter months, especially when many of you heat your homes with electric heat! I am behind you all in NL, you’ve got to stand up to your gov on this issue!

  24. Well said and as for those like Trevor Taylor telling people to stop complaining, too darn bad. It’s about time people were held accountable for not doing what they are paid quite handsomely to do. I would like to know just how long Mr. Taylor spent in the cold and the dark and I’m sure if he spent any time at all under these adverse conditions he did his share of complaining/grumbling, not just publicly. One persona privately, another publicly. Trevor to the rescue!! Just as he was going to save us all last federal election. No brownie points to be made at this particular time Trevor so why don’t you can it.

  25. Exactly. As an engineer who has travelled far… This mismanagement of a prime utility is the heights of negligence. Make no doubt about it, govt is well aware of the what ifs and lack of reliable contingency plans. They were all just hoping it would not happen. Well “what if” did happen. What they say in public is another story. Every Nfld citizen should be complaining their max peak …. turned up to 11. This is ridiculous and yes the arse is out of er. Gets those lackeys out of power “management”. They have grossly failed you all. Every single one of you. There exists widely skilled folks who know how to run a power utility. Find them please. Guess how many other developped cities have reliable contingency and power demand plans. All of them. It’s a requirement. Heads at the top should roll over this. This is Not acceptable. And now you have all suffered for their lack of capability. Get mad. Get really mad!!

  26. Extremely well said! I only hope more people read it closely so they can stop with their annoying whining!

  27. Love the article. So true on so many levels but not just a Newfoundland problem. I live in Ontario and work in the construction industry and the vast majority of our time and resources are spent on new construction, faster and supposedly better then ever before. What a joke! Our infrastructure is crumbling all across this great country and we keep patching the problem and keep expanding into new territory. This problem is only going to get worst, not better. Imagine being out on the ocean in a wooden fishing boat plagued with rotten boards and we keep patching the leaks as they “spring up” (pardon the pun). On the horizon we see a storm bearing down on us and we look around at our patched rotten boat and know that it may not survive the impending storm. Doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside now does it? That is what is happening to our infrastructure! It is rotting and we keep patching it, and the storms keep bearing down on us. And now hundreds of thousands of Canadians are not able to stay safe and warm in their own homes, right across this great country of ours! Canada, the true north strong and free, just be prepared to freeze in your own home!

    Please check on your neighbours and make sure they are Ok!

  28. It is sometimes difficult to put words to paper, to try and express our concerns and dissatisfaction. To try and let the powers to be know, that we appreciate their difficult jobs, but we have questions. Trevor Taylor would do his self a great favour if he had the insight to ask you for some advice, on how to connect with the reader. I do read his piece in the telegram, just because its there and we have to give him credit, for a man that has spent so much of his time in a fishing boat, he is trying. Very well written.

  29. Telling like it is! Heads should swing. . .accountability. . . .resposibility. . . That’s why they get big pay cheques. . . Well now it is time to pay the piper. Good on you Tina.

  30. Thanks everyone for your kind comments and extra perspective on the problem. I’m just glad we’re focused on the right problem. Not a one-off snowstorm and a couple of power outages, but about the fact it’s cold out right now and we’re all afraid they are going to cut our power again soon due to increased demand. This shouldn’t be in Newfoundland in 2014.

  31. As soon as the muskrat falls project was announced, hydro cut back on overtime for employees for maintenance on their powerlines. (no money left in the budget) They even hired extra management to accomplish this! They blame the lack of money and equipment on the PUB. Iv heard time and time again how hard it is to get the pub to approve maintenance but i guess we will find out if this is true or not when hydro meets with the pub. Its time that somebody answers for this! Front line workers are getting old and retiring and as hydro does hire new apprentice once a year its not enough and alot of jobs arnt getting filled. I am willing to guess that every hydro lineworker crew accross the island has at least 2-4 jobs that they wont fill to save money! Hydro did away with driver/groundsman, labours and equipment operators expecting the already understaffed lineworkers to take their place. Its time for the people of newfoundland to stand up and fight for their right to reliable power because if they dont its only going to get worst. I know because i work for hydro!!

  32. I am definately sharing this. These politicians get paid big bucks to sit on their arses. Of course in kathy Dunderdales perspective we weren’t in a crisis! She only sees how she lives! She don’t put herself in the poor buggers shoes, who has little food on the table, and no money to buy more! Or the elderly who are too old to drive and cannot walk to the store (first of all because we have no sidewalks ploughed) to buy batteries for a flashlight or candles. That is the ideal person who should run our province! Someone with a perspective and true understanding of all walks of life!! as far as I’m concerned, she sees all people as being up to her scale. Wake up Kathy Dunderdale!! We don’t all own friggin dishwashers!!! Some people don’t have enough food to dirt the dishes!! Thanks for the opportunity to vent!!! Dawn

  33. Very true words….The people with all control of the decisions that affect the entire province are withholding information, distorting the truth, and certainly not thinking of the average person or the increasing numbers of seniors and the deterioration of rural Newfoundland.
    Just like Canada doesn’t end in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland is not about the city of St. John’s. I am so disgusted with the Political bullshit and how a group of bureaucrats think we are so stupid.
    Several excuses for what is happening with our power…but don’t worry….Muskrat Falls will fix all that in 2017…hang on til then fellow Newfoundlanders. Too bad the current embarrassment leading this province won’t be there to cut the red ribbon on the official opening day….at least not with my vote!

  34. of course they knew it was on the horizon – all their [NL Hydro] equipment has been apparently been deemed outdated

  35. (Slow Clap)….Couldn’t have Said it better myself. I totally agree with all the points you made in this article. Another point i have is…ok they are bringing the power generation units back up…why can’t they get them back to the levels before? Why is NL Hydro still using 40 YEAR OLD EQUIPMENT TO POWER A PROVINCE!!!!!!???

  36. Great piece, Tina. I couldn’t agree more. I tweeted a few moans and groans myself over the weekend but I’ve lived here for most of my life and I know what it can be like in the winter. My tweets were mostly gut-reactions and expressions of frustration. One point you made that seems to be getting lost in the furor is the fact that the rolling blackouts began before the storm. It was cold and Hydro couldn’t keep up with the demand. Simple as that. The front-line workers who save our asses on a regular basis don’t plan for these crises (I have no problem using that word), the brass do, or at least should. The storm is a convenient red herring. It certainly exacerbated the problem but didn’t cause it.

  37. great article & oh so true …..kath….-y dunderhead the people should not have to put up with this its why we have taxes no preparedness it really bugs me thinking of you all & hoping one day to visit your great province…….. happy new year to one & all susan in ontario

  38. Great article Tina and dead on re; scapegoats being used to deflect from the real situation of not enough generation available to meet customer demand. I can as well add that most likely the fire at Sunnyside was a result of too much load being forced through when they were desperate for more juice on the Avalon. In respect to not caring where it comes from, I have had a real good look at the options and Muskrat Falls is the worst nightmare of our history. We can upgrade the on island system with much cheaper thermal generation and more efficiency in the on island hydro assets to meet our needs until 2041, for BILLIONS less than the very risky lower Churchill, with it’s 1400 km Labrador Island transmission line and sub sea cable carrying the most expensive energy (35-40 cent/kwh (depending on overruns) in order to pay for construction of Muskrat Falls) in North America! Our children will be on the hook for the next 7 decades to pay for 40% of the power weather we use it or not! Remember we ONLY use hoyrood for 15% of our needs! To add insult to the injury, $3.5-$4 billion of very hard earned oil profit, (HERITAGE FUND) has to be put at great risk to ensure a LEGACY for Danny Williams Kathy Dunderdale, and the current batch of PC MHA’s who allowed this to take place. Remembering at the same time, that the very managers and politicians you quite rightfully wonder about in your blog, are in charge of dreaming up and delivering the whole thing! I think a review of Nalcor and Muskrat Falls would be the most prudent way to ensure a $10-$15 billion boondoggle does not occur, and that our children are not harmed by overzealous individuals fixated on a pipe dream, who keep forgetting where the price of oil is headed, and are spending wildly on Muskrat Falls, like it was $135.00/bbl!

  39. Very well said. NL Hydro and Dunderdale would do well to read this and stop thinking that the people of NL are that gullable that we would believe their bullsh#t

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