Maritime Electric says it will look further into underground power lines and will move forward with "smart meters" following the utility's analysis of its response to post-tropical storm Fiona.
Jason Roberts, CEO of Maritime Electric, and other company officials presented to a legislative committee Monday.
Among the key learnings from Maritime Electric were:
Improve customer restoration information.
Increase vegetation management beyond right of way.
Give further consideration to the merits of underground lines.
Advance AMI (smart meters) deployment.
Post-tropical storm Fiona slammed Prince Edward Island on Sept. 24, leaving about 80,000 Maritime Electric customers without power, some for more than three weeks.
Since the storm, many people have questioned whether underground lines should be implemented.
Roberts said Maritime Electric is "not opposed" to underground lines, and there are about 60 kilometres of underground lines on P.E.I. now. He said the option is available to new developments and customers who wish to have the line from the street to their homes or businesses buried — but the cost is significantly higher.
"We need to start thinking about what it means to the Island as a whole."
Roberts said it needs to be weighed against the cost of repairing above-ground lines, and the ongoing management of tree trimming around those lines. The company is working with climate scientists and others to identify climate risks. He said ideally, an above-ground line would last about 50 years.
The company said it has been more proactive in cutting trees that could fall on lines and cause power outages. However, officials said when they ask homeowners for permission to cut down trees that could be problematic, only about 30 per cent agree.
Roberts said the implementation of smart meters will be helpful in future restoration efforts.
"What we learned from this restoration is if we had smart meters in the system deployed, we could actually then look out across the system at any point in time and see — is your house on, is your house off — and we would have that information," he told the committee.
"What we did this time around is we drove around with our meter reading group and we actually picked up the readings from the meters as we went so that way we knew who was on. If we didn't get a reading, we knew they were off."
The company said it applied some of the lessons learned from post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019, but the impact from Fiona was much worse.