Montréal, May 15, 2023

Press Release

April 2023 ice storm: Hydro-Québec takes action to increase system resilience

Hydro-Québec reports on the powerful ice storm accompanied by high winds that swept across the Montréal, Montérégie, Lanaudière, Laurentides and Outaouais regions on April 5, 2023, causing close to 10,000 outages on Hydro-Québec’s distribution system. A total of over 1.3 million customers were affected. Most of the damage and outages were caused by fallen branches and trees on power lines. The cost of the service restoration operation is estimated at about $50 million.

Concrete actions

In light of the current context, Hydro-Québec has developed a Climate Change Adaptation Plan based on a major reflection and analysis process involving experts from all business sectors. Following the April 2023 ice storm, we are taking several concrete actions to improve our grid’s reliability and resilience and to help communities face weather-related challenges in the future.

  • Vegetation is responsible for 40% to 70% of outages. In recent years, we have increased our investments in vegetation control activities to adapt to this new reality. Our investments in vegetation control have more than doubled to reach nearly $120 million this year. In collaboration with the government and municipalities, we will determine how to best facilitate and boost proactive vegetation control activities. This may include, for example, determining how the regulations can be adapted to promote planting the right tree in the right place or how to limit the size of branches overhanging the power system.  
  • In response to the December 2022 report by Québec’s auditor general regarding grid maintenance, we have filed an action plan with the Commission de l’administration publique. The concerns raised in the report correspond to issues that we have actively been working on addressing since 2018 already.
  • In the coming months, our teams will review the criteria governing undergrounding. Direct burial (placing conductors directly in a sand pit) is another possibility in certain cases outside urban centers. We are currently testing this technology through pilot projects in Gaspésie and Mauricie.
  • We are gradually installing composite poles, which are much more resistant, in strategic locations in the distribution system. This action will help prevent a domino effect during major weather events. To date, we have installed 50 composite poles.
  • Three distribution lines have been selected in the Montréal, Outaouais and Laurentides regions to test the best combination of new solutions for improved resilience, including direct burial, composite poles and automatic restoration equipment.
  • We are also working on innovative solutions to make communities more resilient to weather-related events. Ensuring essential buildings, such as emergency shelters, have access to an alternate portable power supply, such as a generator, is crucial.

In collaboration with its government, municipal and community partners, Hydro-Québec remains committed to deploying the necessary efforts to prevent outages and reduce their duration and impacts. We have held meetings with representatives of seniors’ residence associations and will be automating our updating process for seniors’ residence customers, based on a list provided by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS). We are also continuing talks with the MSSS in an effort to optimize our collaboration and reassess our priority codes in accordance with best practices in the sector. Resilience being a shared responsibility, citizens should also ensure they have an emergency kit at home with three days’ worth of essential supplies, as recommended by the Québec government.

“Our crews worked round the clock to restore power as quickly as possible. The task was very complex and long for our line workers as they had to go to thousands of locations in sometimes difficult conditions. We continue to take action to enhance grid resilience and reduce service restoration times during extreme weather events. I would like to thank our customers for their understanding as well as the thousands of employees who—as usual—stepped up,” noted Régis Tellier, Vice President – Operations and Maintenance.

Main points regarding the April 2023 ice storm:

  • Cost of work estimated at approximately $50 million
  • A total of 9,669 outages
  • 1,310,000 customers affected: 1,125,000 of which were without power at the same time
  • Service restored to 44% of homes 24 hours after the height of the storm
  • Service restored to 77% of homes 48 hours after the height of the storm
  • Service restored to 99% of homes by the morning of April 11
  • 115,000 hours worked by our line workers
  • Over 1,500 employees on the job
  • More than 300 poles replaced
  • 440 transformers replaced
  • 50 km of power lines installed

514 289-5005

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