The Tyranny of Power Outages
The first sign of winter and the power goes out. For some in the Pugwash area, last night's outage simply meant missing the final of the Grey Cup, but many others suffered in the cold for over 12 hours.
The lights went out about 10:30 pm, just as Calgary was staging a 20 point come back late in the Grey Cup against the Red and Black upstarts from Ottawa.
It had been raining, then it turned to heavy, wet snow, and the winds were increasing. It was not a storm in the classic sense, so the power outage surprised many. It first hit Pugwash and the surrounding area, but the village core outage was short-lived as compared to Pugwash West through Pugwash Junction, where power stayed off for the night and most of this morning. Nova Scotia Power finally restored the service shortly after 11:00 this morning.
Calls to the power outage line did not access a human response, only a recording with general information. The official cause, as reported by NSP, was "high winds." Given the much higher winds during our Thanksgiving storm, consumers are left shaking their head and wondering what might be ahead in the real winter storms that are yet to come this season.
Today, Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board established new standards for the power company's response to serious power outages. Among other things, the company must respond within 45 seconds to consumers' phone calls seeking information on outages.
They did not consider last night's blackout a "serious power outage." In that case, the new regulations require the company to respond within 30 seconds for at least 70% of those consumers who make the effort to ask for an explanation.
Luckily for NSP, the new rules don't go into effect till January1, 2017. Customer calls today were met with the usual press one for this, two for that, and answer this question, followed by that question so the NSP database could drill down and provide a general recorded answer without ever providing a human contact.
While the impending new rules may help, bolstered by the possibility of fines up to one million dollars, consumers might be better served if officials of NSP had to sit in the cold and dark for the same time their customers endure power outages.
Anger and resentment toward NSP and its parent company Emera is growing. Premier Stephen McNeil blasted the power provider after a failed response to post tropical storm Arthur back in 2014. The premier's outrage touched a nerve among consumers whose growing anger and mistrust of the private company runs unabated.
People are paying the highest power bills ever, but the service has not kept pace with the cost to consumers. Worse, the customer experience in communicating with the company has worsened greatly. The word monopoly often comes to mind, but the word tyrannical is increasingly joining the conversation.