Rolling blackouts continue in Newfoundland

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Pressure on as Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro try to manage supply shortage

Even with a request for people in on the island of Newfoundland to conserve power during peak periods, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is still faced with more demand than power in the system as of 9:30 a.m. Friday morning.

With a key generator at the Holyrood power plant unable to run at full speed, paired with two gas turbines out for maintenance, Hydro has been unable to feed Newfoundland Power the energy it needs to keep the lights on.

More importantly, there is not enough power to keep the heat on during an early winter cold snap.

Rolling blackouts — sharing power — continued this morning, after a night of the same Thursday. The blackouts were to last just half an hour to an hour, but many people have reported longer outages.


Rolling blackouts as power use surpasses supply

“There were some people off last night a little bit longer than an hour. In fact in some cases they were off a couple of hours and there’s a few more off longer than that,” acknowledged Karen McCarthy, a communications lead at Newfoundland Power.

There were reports of some system issues unrelated to the rolling blackouts, though McCarthy could not speak offhand to specifics and offered to provide more information later today.

In other cases, she said, the length of time off the system can be related to the size of the power demand in the area.

“Taking them off is really about tripping the feeder. It’s as simple as a switch if you would. But when the houses start to get cold, if we’ve got a large feeder trip that might have as many as say three or four thousand people on it, then we might have to bring them on more slowly onto the system so that we don’t cause it to break down,” she said.

This is what the utilities often refer to as balancing the power.


Record high demand

Demand for power remains a problem for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro today.

Dawn Dalley, vice-president of corporate relations with Nalcor, says the island power system faced record high demand for power last night and continued high demand this morning. Nalcor Energy is Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s parent company.

This morning, demand peaked between 1,450 megawatts and 1,460 megawatts, even with a request for energy conservation.

“And that’s high for a morning peak. Lower than last night, but still high,” Dalley said.

Thursday night was a historical high for power demand for the day, she said, running 1,550 megawatts to 1,560 megawatts.

As for the question of whether or not this could have been predicted, Dalley said again the average peak demand over the last five years was about 1,150 megawatts, give or take, making recent demand a clear step above.

“It is tough for people and we’re not immune to that. We understand it intimately that this is frustrating for people,” Dalley said.

“We appreciate the frustration that everyone has. Electricity has become a commodity that is … most people think in the country we live in and the province we live in should be pretty standard. We expect it to be on all the time. So (this) is an anomaly and it’s a series of events,” she said.

While Christmas lights were targeting in requests for people to lower their energy usage, Christmas lights are not the biggest piece of demand on the system, especially with new energy efficient LED light options becoming more pervasive. That said, the lights are considered an indicator of whether or not individuals are receiving the message asking for energy conservation, Dalley said.

Hydro is currently looking at why the demand has peaked the way it has, to see if there was anything other than the cold temperatures increasing the demand.

More to come.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Chris
    January 05, 2014 - 18:35

    Nice to know that a power grid in 2014 works like a set of christmas lights from the 70s. One bulb goes out they all go out.

  • Chris
    January 05, 2014 - 18:34

    Nice to know that a power grid in 2014 works like a set of christmas lights from the 70s. One bulb goes out they all go out.

  • Rob A
    January 04, 2014 - 05:02

    Hmm how many new houses in last 5 years all Electric Heat,more people owning more places,new businesses always opening and popping up and population on the rise with a broken down faucility that is patched by bandages,I`m suprised we not out of power for weeks or is that coming with Holyrood generating station goes into melt down.If not upgraded soon common sense its all going for broke!!!

  • p earle
    January 03, 2014 - 22:24

    How is it that a key generator cant be run at 'full speed' while at the SAME TIME TWO gas generators are 'out for service' at a time in mid winter which very likely would be the time each year when peak load is or would be reached ?? It would seem most probable that the records of power demand in the province would indicate that demand hits its highest points during winter cold spells and storms and that therefore all their power producing equipment should be ready for such high loads in mid winter. Perhaps it can be understood that one generator might be down for what ever reason thus creating a problem of low out put...but THREE generators out at this time makes one wonder what's going on? Why would this not be of great concern back in mid summer , that three motors could be out or parts of three could be out or not up to par? At this time they would have 6 months to do maintenance before the peak demand time of mid winter. Is the situation now supposed to make the public think or believe that the province needs a bigger power supply ? thus MR falls is needed? It is clear the comments by Dalley on historical high peaks of 1550 to 1560 are false as the records show 4 of the past 11 years have had higher peaks. Why then lie about this? And if we handled these cold spells before with HIGHER PEAK DEMANDS with no rolling blackouts per say why the blackouts now? But it's useless to ask these questions because the ones who have the answers don't have to tell why...they don't have to answer the public and bill 59 puts the government behind the high priests walls of the Confederation Luxor temple where only they have communion with the God Amun. Us ordinary mortals are below them and don't have to be spoken to, that is of course unless they need to pump out their falsities to make us believe that it is what is correct and good for us. Since the Muskrat Falls Project the government has tried to turn so much falsity into truth and disorder into order that an ordinary person, who can think for himself, couldn't believe anything that comes out of their mouth. Simple , they have lost credibility. With this governments record and Nalor's actions the first thing that comes to mind is that the entire so called shortage of power at present has been contrived, even anticipated. p earle

  • Corporate Psycho
    January 03, 2014 - 17:15

    The incompetence is astounding. The BOD of Nalcor should resign en masse. Brutal.

  • Parents
    January 03, 2014 - 16:47

    I want to personally thank NL power for keeping the power off in the area where my 80 year old Mom lives from 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon to almost midnight. Way to go. Good thing the rolling outage is supposed to be for 1/2 to an hour long. And no, she doesn't suck the power dry when the power is on. She uses a little electric heat and mostly uses oil heat. But with the power off the furnace for oil heat, of course, won't work.

  • Duffy
    January 03, 2014 - 16:12

    Nalcor and NL POwer didn't realize that at Christmas people use more lights and that in the winter they use heat. Imagine these are the people that say Muskrat falls is a good idea. Please give me an answer why you do routine maintainance on generators in the winter instead of July. Someone may say there are Idiots running the operation but that is not the case because the MHA said it is just a "Perfect Storm" whatever that means!

  • Virginia Waters
    January 03, 2014 - 14:55

    Maurice Adams, who can always be counted on to bring the facts to the table, characterizes NALCOR's defence as spin, obfuscation and diversion. I don' t disagree with any of these descriptions but Maurice as usual is being too generous. Isn't this a deliberate attempt to mislead the public - to somehow blame nature for NALCOR's incompetence. As Disraeli noted, there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics". Fresh from the Battle of Muskrat, NALCOR has perfected the statistical lie. Averages are meaningless when discussing peak loads. If you only planned for average loads - even average peaks as NAOCOR calls them - then clearly you're going to fall short of peak loads. It amounts to mathematical nonsense - something the senior people at NALCOR well understand but hope the public does not. Minister Dalley has said he will demand an explanation from NALCOR. NALCOR's Martin, Dalley, et al are no doubt shaking in their boots. The last time it inflicted a major, protracted outage on us, NALCOR took a year or more to explain why - by which time, of course, they knew most people had forgotten it. What we miss in this province is an active committee system in our legislature, wherein opposition parties could compel Mr. Martin to testify under oath as to the real cause of such major failures.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      January 03, 2014 - 15:19

      VIRGINIA WATERS --- I do not disagree. Pleased to see you expand on the math (peak versus average) issue. Misleading use of data? I agree fully --- and in my view, intentionally so. Well done.

  • Gekko
    January 03, 2014 - 14:31

    Why are these guys so foolish as to be suggesting that turning off Christmas lights will make any dent in the power usage... It will not. People need to turn down their heaters. They don`t need to freeze, but they don`t need to heat their homes up like saunas either.

    • CJ
      January 03, 2014 - 16:57

      1 person turning off Christmas lights, or reducing the thermostat a degree won't make much difference. 250 000 people doing it will make a difference. Unfortunately everyone has the attitude that the little bit I do won't change anything so I'm not going to do anything at all. People need to see the bigger picture here and turn off non-essentials (ie: Christmas Lights etc...)

  • The Working Man
    January 03, 2014 - 13:08

    No trouble to tell who the callers are on open line today. The 'Allergic' to work crowd are on complaining they have no heat. Heat that is paid for the by working taxpayer. Its an endless cycle for the handout crowd here in NL.

  • Harry Tucker
    January 03, 2014 - 13:05

    Emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility. Many good people are doing the best they can with what they have to keep the lights on for people in the province. My question is ... what are we doing to better prepare ourselves instead of always relying on others?

  • sheldon
    January 03, 2014 - 12:37

    we have had to spill water from the reservoirs behind the generation station in bay d'Espoir for a couple of years now. The environment is getting on the backs of NFLD hydro for spilling and destroying the habitat of fish when they spill. It sure seams like we have enough inventory of water to support another turbine in Bay D'Espoir. there is no way that we the people of NFLD should in this day, be experiencing blackouts in the dead of winter when we need power the most. Sad

  • sheldon
    January 03, 2014 - 12:33

    we have had to spill water from the reservoirs behind the generation station in bay d'Espoir for a couple of years now. The environment is getting on the backs of NFLD hydro for spilling and destroying the habitat of fish when they spill. It sure seams like we have enough inventory of water to support another turbine in Bay D'Espoir. there is no way that we the people of NFLD should in this day, be experiencing blackouts in the dead of winter when we need power the most. Sad

  • Fred Penner
    January 03, 2014 - 12:26

    Maurice...I didn't say anything about Dawn Dalley or spinning anything. I simply informed you that you don't know the difference between island peak and system peak.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      January 03, 2014 - 13:39

      Fred, the article speaks of the system problem being caused by peak island demand --- PERIOD. Your focus on system versus island peak is obfuscation and diversion --- nothing more.

  • Picky
    January 03, 2014 - 12:19

    Wouldn't you schedule regular maintenance on these turbines in "off peak" months like August or sept ? Just asking.

    • Meow
      January 03, 2014 - 12:53

      I think they are scheduled for the summer months. But they've let holyrood degrade through neglect resulting in the problem they had last year. We had to keep the generators in donovan's going over the summer during the repair of holyrood, so they didn't get repaired when they should have.

  • Rob
    January 03, 2014 - 11:28

    This is a joke plain and simple. If turbines are broke....FIX THEM!!!!!! The PUB wont mind increasing our utility rates though will they. So I guess this begs the question, where are our tax dollars and higher utility fees going cause its not helping with this situation is it....In this day and age with a huge land mass with approximately 500, 000 people in this province this is a farce and everybody knows it. Now if we had 10 million people on this island then maybe just maybe you could understand this happening. If we cant have a system in 2014 with technology galore nowadays to support fully this province and then some with electricity then there is not much odds about this place is there... WE really are a Newfie joke!!!!!!!!!!! And we got no one to blame but ourselves!!!!!!

    • doug
      January 03, 2014 - 12:54

      well said rob,,, certainly laughed at esp. with this gov.,at least rob ford speaks to the media to ease taxpayers concerns,,Kathy must be enjoying the heat somewhere,oh right we pay for the premier's residence,,and hydro and nalcor ,oh my will it never end ,,,

  • Hint
    January 03, 2014 - 11:04

    Turn off your electric hot water. It's a big user and you can do without it til this crisis is over

  • Guy Incognito
    January 03, 2014 - 10:49

    Someone needs to be fired at Hydro. Totally unacceptable. Who was the rocket scientist that scheduled generator maintenance in January?

    • Anon
      January 03, 2014 - 11:40

      if maintenance was skipped and the turbine went down during peak demand, you'd still be blaming Hydro. And people would still be screaming conspiracy.

    • Hint
      January 03, 2014 - 12:31

      To Anon ... you don't skip maintenance, you reschedule it for the off season

    • Meow
      January 03, 2014 - 12:59

      It was actually scheduled for the summer. The Holyrood problem prevented us from taking down the donovan's generator for maintenance until October. They have been offline since October, it's not something that has suddenly happened.

  • Fred Penner
    January 03, 2014 - 10:32

    Maurice....It appears that you don't understand what you are reading. NLH makes a distinction between island peak and system peak. I leave it to you to figure it out for yourself.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      January 03, 2014 - 11:20

      FRED, according to the article ............"Dawn Dalley... says the island power system faced record high demand for power last night and continued high demand this morning." The key words were that it was the "record high demand" that (in part) was causing the problem---- and the numbers I provided were the island's "demand" numbers (as documented by Nalcor). But, like Nalcor, you choose to spin the issue.

  • mainlander
    January 03, 2014 - 10:09

    Are ALL non-essential businesses closed today? Doubt it.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 03, 2014 - 10:01

    Correction ---- my previous comment should have read from year 2002 to 2011 (and the year 2011 data was obtained via email from Nalcor).

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 03, 2014 - 09:58

    Here are the facts (from Nalcor Exhibit 103 filed with our Public Utilities Board in 2010), showing the island's total peak demand from year 2002 to 2012 ------------ 1,592...1,595... 1,598...1,595...1,517 ...1,540...1,520...1,601 ...1,478...1,544...1,550..................... Average 1,557 MW. So only is yesterday's PEAK well below the peaks for years 02,03,04,05, and 09, but also well below the last 11 year average? Why the problems this time? refers.

  • Muskrat
    January 03, 2014 - 09:14

    Where's the muskrat falls crowd now? Oh yeah, that's right. They're screaming conspiracy from the rooftops. The sooner we get this system up and running the better.

    • Shawn
      January 03, 2014 - 09:56

      Yes, It'll definitely help–But the reason we're without power isn't because our system is maxed out. We're only at 30% capacity at the moment. If we were fully functional (Not doing maintenance in Dec/Jan on two turbines) we wouldn't have any issues. That said, here's hoping Muskrat falls works out ok in the end.

    • Joe
      January 03, 2014 - 10:38

      The same incompetents who schedule a major maintenance program in the coldest month in the year will still be in charge. We do have an alternative hire back the former managers who knew how to run a power system, but just weren't Ed's buddies.