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NB Power learns a few lessons following 2013/14 ice storms



June 10, 2014 – NB Power says it is investing $5.8 million this year in the annual preventive maintenance program that clears low-hanging branches and trees from around powerlines, as this is one of three areas identified for improvement in an internal review conducted in the months following the December 2013 ice storms.

Those storms caused 88,000 NB Power customers in southern and central New Brunswick to lose electricity during an 11-day period. The utility says it will expand the program further in 2016 and 2017, and is piloting new technology to make vegetation management programs more effective in the future.

“Trees and branches falling into powerlines during severe weather caused approximately 30% of unplanned outages during the last two years,” noted NB Power president and CEO Gaetan Thomas.

“Ice Storm Outages, Lessons Learned 2013-2014” tree-trimming and two other key areas for improvement:

Vegetation Management
Piloting the use of LiDAR technology to efficiently identify where trees have the potential to come into contact with powerlines. This remote sensing technology measures the distance between trees and power lines by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. This will provide real-time reporting on which powerlines are at risk of having contact with trees.

Increasing budget and reviewing tree maintenance processes to maximize investment. Improved communications with property owners impacted by tree-trimming, including a more informative, user-friendly website.

Emergency Preparedness
Updating NB Power’s emergency plan, and exercising it regularly to improve internal storm readiness. Improving emergency response through process improvements.

Communications
Providing improved information on estimated times of power restoration online, with outage mapping functionality and better communications to help customers understand how and why priorities are set in restoring power.

The utility says work has already begun on many of these enhancements.

“I am proud of the incredible work our employees did this winter to restore power to New Brunswickers. I am equally proud to present this report as further commitment to our efforts to improve service,” added Thomas.