Stories & Features

Power outages by the numbers


You may be surprised by what causes most of the power outages in B.C. Read the story below, and don't miss our full by-the-numbers infographic below.  

We've crunched the power outage data over the last five years

Try as we might to prevent them, power outages do happen.

We've crunched the numbers, and present a visual guide to power outages in B.C., including how we stack up against the rest of Canada and what causes those outages.

On average, customers experience fewer than two power outages per year.

At BC Hydro, it's our job to provide British Columbians with reliable power.

We live in a province that's home to mountainous terrain and many areas where keeping the lights on can be a challenge. So how do we do?

  • On average, BC Hydro customers experience about 1.87 outages per year, lower than the 2.52 outages per household that occur in Ontario.
  • The average number of outages per year, per customer, in B.C., has been lower than the Canadian average for the last eight years.

Outages in Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland spike during storm season

The stormy weather that hits our province from October to February brings a higher risk of damage to our system. High wind and rain experienced throughout B.C. usually doubles the number of customer calls about power outages compared to the rest of the year.

On the evening of the first snowfall for the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, a question came through to our team on Twitter. The customer asked why trees were causing power outages throughout the region when there was no wind. The reason? All that heavy snow piling on weak branches can topple trees onto our power lines, causing outages.

  • Trees account for about 33% of all outages. Here in B.C., we have two to three times the North American average for number of trees per overhead pole kilometre . Our vegetation management team does what it can to identify hazards in advance, inspecting and pruning trees near power lines to prepare for storm season.
  • Add in severe weather conditions, which are responsible for 21% of outages, and storm season packs a wallop.

So how do we prepare for storm season each year?

All year, crews proactively make the rounds throughout the province, travelling thousands of kilometres while identifying decaying and damaged poles and infrastructure that's at risk of failing. The strategy minimizes the damage that can occur when severe storms hit the province. We also have an in-house team of meteorologists who keep track of storms so we can be prepared before they hit. With that advanced warning, we can schedule and adjust our crews and call-centre team so that when lights do go out, we're ready to respond.

To help keep our system reliable we switch the power off so that our crews can safely perform maintenance on the system. These planned outages account for 5% of outages each year.

Animal incidents – including birds flying into our wires, osprey building nests on top of our power poles, and squirrels trespassing at our substations – account for about 5% of outages each year. Our team tries to mitigate these sorts of issues, and last year we tried something new with the installation of decoy geese on our poles to help dissuade osprey from nesting there.

The numbers you need to know during a power outage

We do our best to prevent power outages, and we try to be prepared to respond as quickly as we can when major storms hit.

Outages are unpredictable, so you should always be prepared. Keep an emergency kit well stocked, give us a call at 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376) or *HYDRO (*49376) if you have any information that can assist our team, and get all the latest updates on our mobile website.

If you come across a fallen power line, stay back 10m and dial 911 immediately.