Planned Outages in Labrador West – FAQs

Why are planned outages necessary?
Every year, Hydro needs to perform critical maintenance, refurbishment and upgrades on the equipment across the island and Labrador electricity systems. The work is necessary to ensure safe, reliable operation of the electricity system all year long, and it is planned well in advance according to our multi-year asset management plan. This work typically occurs between April and November, when customer demand for electricity is lowest.

As we assess the condition of equipment and complete planning for the system, we identify any work needed. Some of this work requires that power lines and terminal stations are “de-energized” so that it can be done safely and properly. This unfortunately means power to customers is turned off in those instances. We know that any outages are inconvenient for customers, so wherever possible, Hydro schedules planned outages during times when it will be the least disruptive. We make every effort to keep customers, local businesses and organizations, and municipal officials informed so that we plan the most convenient time.

By completing work in a planned manner, we help prevent a potential emergency power outage in the future.

Click here for more on why we plan outages.

Why does Hydro need to take long outages in Labrador West every year?
We know long outages are disruptive and we understand the inconvenience they cause. There are a few key reasons why these outages are needed:

  1. Complexity: The Wabush terminal station (now more than 40 years old) is a very large, complex facility with countless pieces of equipment and electricity components, each of which require scheduled refurbishment or replacement to ensure they operate reliably. Work needed on the equipment is identified through a multi-year planning process, where we determine when each piece of equipment is due for upgrade. Did you know? The Wabush terminal station serves all of Labrador West and is the heart of the region’s electricity network. For comparison, it handles more electrical load than Prince Edward Island.
  2. Limited flexibility: The local electricity system in Labrador West was built in the 50s and 60s as the communities of Labrador City and Wabush were first established. It was originally designed to serve the mines primarily, and therefore, the Wabush terminal station has limited built-in flexibility. When significant work needs to be done in the station, it typically requires taking one or more important pieces of equipment offline. The original design of the station means we normally need to schedule a power outage for customers so our teams can safely complete the work.
  3. Minimizing outages: The annual capital and maintenance work generally requires power to customers to be turned off. Hydro makes every effort to avoid outages to customers where possible. When it is not possible to do the work without an outage, Hydro works to complete as much of the work as possible during relatively few extended outages, rather than taking multiple, shorter planned outages during the summer months. We also coordinate with operations at Churchill Falls (where the power to Labrador West comes from), so that they too complete annual upgrades at the same time and avoid further outages.

Can Hydro make changes to the system so that planned outages aren’t necessary?
Changing the way the Wabush terminal station and the system in Labrador West is configured to avoid planned outages would require substantial additional capital investment, the costs of which would be applied to electricity rates for Labrador customers. To avoid substantial rate impacts, the aim is to strike an appropriate balance to maintain an acceptable level of reliability for customers, while keeping electricity rates reasonable.

Can outages be rescheduled if customers prefer another time?
A considerable amount of project planning and resources goes into the work schedule for planned outages. It involves significant coordination to plan what work needs to be completed, find the least disruptive time for customers, schedule crews and contractors, ensure delivery of equipment and materials, and coordinate with system operations. We sometimes have to shift schedules to complete work safely (for example, in the case of bad weather), but we do our best to avoid it because even a slight change in schedule can be overly disruptive and costly.

Can Hydro do work in the overnight hours to minimize the disruption to customers?
Sometimes that’s possible, and from time to time we do plan outages to complete work overnight. But, usually, to do the job safely, crews need to work during daylight.

How do you decide when to schedule outages?
We recognize the disruption that outages cause – whether planned or unplanned. So, we make every effort to minimize the impact on customers. We schedule outages around the same period each year and several factors are considered, including:

  • Schools & Business – Avoiding extended power outages during the school day or primary business hours.
  • Community Events – If there is a significant community event scheduled, we’ll try and find another day.
  • Weather – Some work can’t be done safely in poor weather. That’s why outages can sometimes get cancelled at the last minute.

Once a date is set, we do our best to inform the community by: talking to Town officials, contacting various businesses, posting details on Hydro’s social media and website, sending text notifications to customers via the mhNLhydro app, and running local radio ads.

For customer inquiries any time, please call us toll-free at 1-888-737-1296 or Email customerservices@nlh.nl.ca