Power outages on the decline in Upper Pontiac

The logo of Hydro Quebec, with a yellow Q featuring a lightning bolt and blue letters.
The Upper Pontiac, which has been known for shoddy service from Hydro Quebec, has seen a decline in the number of power outages over the past two years. Photo courtesy of Hydro Quebec.
Caleb Nickerson - CHIP - PontiacQC | 14-01-2022

Residents of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes have long known about the spotty power grid for the island and the surrounding area, but things may be looking up according to data collected by a local farmer.

David Gillespie has been tracking the number and length of power outages in the upper Pontiac since 2009 and said that this year’s results were encouraging. After moving to the area in 2006, he noticed that the number of outages he was experiencing much higher than he was used to, which prompted him to start tracking the local power grid.

The issue has prompted many discussions between Hydro Quebec and local government. Back in the summer of 2016, a massive power surge caused havoc all over the island, destroying appliances and melting surge protectors. The incident caused a public outcry that led to meetings with Pontiac MNA André Fortin and Hydro Quebec brass, as well as a municipal taskforce on the issue.

According to Gillespie’s data, the increased attention seems to have paid off, with two straight years of decline in the number of outages, dropping from 103 in 2019, then to 47 in 2020 and just 37 last year.

The drop was also seen in the cumulative length of the outages in minutes, which fell to 718 minutes or roughly 19 minutes per outage.

A chart detailing the number of outages and minutes per outage over the past 10 years

A chart showing the power outage statistics over the past 10 years. Data courtesy of David Gillespie.

Hydro Quebec’s community representative for the area, Alain Paquette, told CHIP 101.9 that an overview of the work that the company has done in the region over the past year, as well as their upcoming maintenance and infrastructure projects, would be presented to local officials in March.

Gillespie said that he was cautiously optimistic about the improvements, and was in communication with Hydro Quebec representatives about the issue.

Bell telephone service

Gillespie also spoke about the poor landline telephone service that the island receives, which he has also been tracking, albeit for only a year. He explained that Bell’s landline infrastructure in the area is shoddy, but absolutely essential since cell service in the area is notoriously bad.

He said that he experienced a lot of interruptions earlier in 2021, when the line near his home was damaged by snowplows, however, they’ve since become less frequent. He hoped that with the promised roll out of fiber internet in the region this year, telecommunications access in the area would reach parity with the rest of the region.

The full interview (16 min.) with Gillespie is available below.