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Squirrels, construction crews and equipment failure cause outages

Posted by Simi Heer

We would like to express a big thank you to our customers in east, southeast and central Vancouver for their patience last week as we worked through four separate outages at two of our substations.

Delivering an uninterrupted supply of electricity to our customers is a top priority. However, outages do happen and we have restoration plans in place to respond safely and quickly to ensure minimal disruption to our customers.

Last week, BC Hydro crews were able to restore power quickly following four Vancouver outages (three in the same area) and, following investigation, we can confirm that the causes of the outages were varied. We're pleased to be able to provide the following details below after looking into each outage.

Mainwaring substation – service to southeast and central areas of Vancouver

On August 21 equipment malfunctioned at the Mainwaring Substation causing an outage. Power went out at 9 p.m., was restored to SkyTrain by 9:50 p.m. and to all customers by 10:20 p.m.

A separate and unrelated equipment malfunction at 6:14 p.m. on August 23 caused an outage. Power was restored to half of the affected area within fifteen minutes and to the remaining areas within half an hour.

On August 23, non-BC Hydro construction crews digging near the Mainwaring substation struck power cable ducts causing an outage at 10:18 a.m. Power was restored to almost half of the affected area by 11:10 a.m., to most of the remaining area by 11:37 a.m. and the final small affected area by about 1:00 p.m.

Sperling substation – service to central areas of Vancouver

On August 24 a squirrel got into the Sperling substation and caused an outage at 10:38 a.m. Power was restored by 11:20 a.m.

We have rectified the two unique and unrelated equipment issues that caused two outages at Mainwaring station and the other two incidents were due to factors beyond our control. In all cases, our crews worked quickly and safely to restore power.

None of the outages last week are directly attributable to upgrading infrastructure, however the focus they bring to the need for reliable power is an opportunity to highlight the work we are undertaking to upgrade our heritage hydro assets. Built in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, these assets have components and systems that are nearing the end of their life.

We have an ongoing program to maintain and improve system reliability and resiliency. In the next two years alone, BC Hydro will spend nearly $4 billion on renewing, maintaining and improving B.C.'s power infrastructure. Our work will help ensure our facilities and equipment continue to provide a stable supply of electricity for British Columbians for generations to come.

Again , thanks to our customers for their patience and we trust these details help explain the unusual occurrences of last week, the efforts we took to restore power quickly and our ongoing work to make sure our customers can count on B.C.'s power supply.

Simi Heer works with BC Hydro Media Relations.