NSPI details vegetation management, power outages and Smart Meters

Inverness Municipal Council was visited by representatives from Nova Scotia Power on May 7. Melissa Foshay is seen here addressing council with Trevor Beaton (at left) and Paul Casey.

PORT HOOD: Representatives of Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI) stopped by Inverness Municipal Council’s meeting last week to explain the ways the power utility is working to ensure its customers get their money’s worth.

Paul Casey, vice president of transmission and distribution for NSPI, led the discussion. He was accompanied by fellow NSPI officials, Trevor Beaton and Melissa Foshay.

Casey outlined three ways that NSPI is trying to improve its customer service and reliability. The first was a performance standards overview, the second was vegetation management, and the third was the Smart Meter Project.

Possibly the most interesting points made by Casey related to NSPI’s response to outages. During outages caused by major storms, the goal is to restore the power of at least 87.44 per cent of its customers inside 48 hours. During outages caused by extreme storms, NSPI is shooting to have outages remedied for 66.28 per cent of customers inside 48 hours.

Casey also noted that, on average, NSPI customers faced 2.05 outages in 2017. Over the year, that resulted in the average customer being without power for 4.29 hours.

All the information presented by Casey can be found at: nspower.ca.

Beaton handled the part of the presentation dealing with vegetation management. He said the power utility is investing upwards of $9 million over a period of eight to 10 years to increase the amount of space between power lines and tree branches.

“The farther the trees are away from the poles, the less likely it is for the trees to hit the wires,” he said.

He added that, in Inverness County, NSPI is intending to spend in the ball park of $600,000 on tree trimming in 2018. From 2015-17, the utility spent $1.7 million in the county on trimming.

Foshay spoke of the Smart Meter Project, which is a plan to install smart meters into homes and businesses served by NSPI. Smart meters will allow NSPI to know of power outages the moment they occur; therefore, customers will no longer have to dial up the power utility to report outages. Over a 20 year period, smart meters will save $38 million in operational costs.

“That will help us keep rates stable which is always a good thing,” she said.

Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said that while the savings sounds good, the implication is that jobs may be lost for meter readers. Foshay said the meter reading team will take a hit, but that a large number of workers are being retrained for other positions.

“Of the 80 permanent employees, almost all of them will find a new career that’s, really, a better career,” Casey said. “Reading meters is hard work, so they’re used to hard work – they are hard workers, and we’ll fund other careers for them.”

“I love that answer,” added MacQuarrie.