As Niagara grows, so does its appetite for electricity

Raise your hand if you cranked up the air conditioning last Thursday morning during the hot spell, and are feeling guilty that you are partially responsible for the power outage which descended on Pelham, keeping much of the municipality in darkness until almost midnight.

But people pay their taxes, and their hydro bills, and expect reliable service in exchange.

Bonnie Crole, who lives on Rolling Meadows Boulevard in Fonthill, called the Voice to share her frustration.

“What’s going on? This is the third time in a short period that our power has gone off. If this was happening in Toronto, it would be on all the news channels. It’s very disturbing, with the drug stores and grocery stores being forced to close,” she said.

Pelham has two hydro companies serving its residents and businesses. Hydro One covers most of the town’s rural areas, while Niagara Peninsula Energy (NPEI) operates the old Pelham Hydro system in downtown Fonthill. NPEI provides hydro at a cheaper rate than Hydro One but some argue that the service is not as good when it comes to restoring power after an outage.

Pelham Town Councillor Bob Hildebrandt provided the Voice with details he gleaned from a contact at NPEI, which the newspaper has not independently verified.

“Based on this information, it seems Pelham may be in for more issues this summer,” Hildebrandt said. “I am not convinced that Hydro One has solved the voltage problems in Fenwick, based on the monitoring reports I have received.”

Hildebrandt said he reached out to MPP Sam Oosterhoff for assistance.

“Pelham has power issues dating back several years. I am requesting that the latest outages get added to the outstanding classification and low voltage issues that need to be addressed by the Provincial Energy Minister and Hydro One management as soon as possible.”

According to Hildebrandt’s NPEI data, a termination failure at breaker in the Allanburg transmission station occurred last Thursday morning at 9:55 AM. NPEI had 1419 customers out of power in Fonthill as a result, and Hydro One had 4304 customers with no service in the Pelham area.

A work crew was dispatched to restore power, and by 11:07 AM all but 53 NPEI customers had service restored. Unfortunately, for 4304 Hydro One customers, there was no alternative means of supply.

Hydro One crews were able to repair a breaker insulator, splice in a new section of egress cable and re-terminate on the breaker to restore power to the feeder, such that by 11:38 PM Thursday night, all customers had service. The most probable causes of the power failure was a poor connection that heated up and overloaded the feeder, build-up of contamination on the insulator, or animal contact.

Dan DeVries of DeVries Farms in Fenwick told the Voice that power interruptions in Pelham were such that he invest some $60,000 in a 200 kilowatt (200,000 watt) backup generator system to provide power to his entire operation, should the lights go out. This safeguard measure protects not just his fruit and vegetables from spoilage, but also the meat and dairy products in his refrigerated units.

“I think there are some major upgrades that need to happen in Pelham, and it’s not getting done,” he said. “I know businesses that have had major losses due to in adequate power, and have had damage due to voltage issues. It’s a big problem. With all the growth in Pelham, both residential and commercial, power lines need to be upgraded. They have to spend the infrastructure money.”

Communications Co-ordinator Alicia Sayers of Hydro One told the Voice that the company “understands power outages are disruptive, and thanks everyone for their patience, as crews worked as quickly and as safely as possible to restore power. Our crews were dispatched to investigate the cause of the outage, and determined two switches and multiple insulators needed to be replaced along with repairs to an underground cable. Repairs to our equipment were completed, and all power was restored at approximately 11:30 PM on June 23.”

Both NPEI and Hydro One provide outage status updates on their respective websites. Best to keep your smartphone fully-charged, such that it has enough juice to get online access when the lights go out—not to mention to run the phone’s flashlight feature.