Ontario Electricity Regulation Crisis Report Part 102: More from Inside Toronto’s Cold, Black Christmas

I have collected a few more bits on how Toronto Hydro handled the ice storm recovery.

During the first two days of the blackout, Toronto Hydro line crews were ordered to disconnect all power masts (sometimes referred to as stand pipes) on residences that showed any degree of damage. A large number of slightly damaged masts still fit for temporary service were disconnected. The policy was reversed around December 24th, allowing consumers with slightly damaged masts to undertake repairs in a more orderly way within 30 days, rather than during the blackout. Many consumers may have assumed that the mast was Toronto Hydro’s responsibility and rather than the customer’s responsibility. As noted in Part 100 of this series, the first public notice I can find by Toronto Hydro to customers of their responsibility to have electricians repair masts damaged in the storm was issued December 25th. Some contractors recommended by Toronto Hydro reportedly charged up to $6000 for mast repairs. For some customers with damaged masts, the blackout extended well past January 1, 2014, the official end of the emergency.

Several reports suggest that most acute organizational chaos inside Toronto Hydro during the recovery effort centred on the control room. The control room is like an air traffic control tower. Pilots cannot land or take-off from airports until they have clearance from the appropriate air traffic controller. In the case of power distribution, line crews receive direction from the control room on where to go and what to do and need clearance from controllers to manipulate circuits. Of greatest concern, I have received reports of circuits being improperly energized during the storm recovery, at grave risk to line crews. Happily, the events I am aware of were only close calls with no injuries resulting. I reported in Part 100 of this series on line crews being sent on wild goose chases due to chaos in the control room. I continue to receive reports of crews unable to receive instructions or to get clearance to take necessary actions, often forced to wait for hours before they could get direction from the control room.

The VP responsible for the control room is Ben La Pianta. His public comments in the aftermath of the Thornecliffe Park blackout of March 2013 are reported in Part 67 of this series and raised serious concerns for me at that time.

Post script January 9 2:20 pm: I recently updated Part 67 of this series with fact checking on technical statements from Mr. La Pianta’s office about the cause of the Thorncliffe Park blackout.

One Comment

  1. $6,000 is just plain taking advantage of people in a crisis situation.
    A freind of mine paid $2,000 for mast repairs due to tornado damage. Even that price was outrageous.
    Thankful to have mine underground.

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