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Hydro-Quebec unveils plan to bring the number of power outages down

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Hydro-Quebec says there are far too many power outages in the province and it wants to bring the number down.

The target is a 35 per cent drop within the next decade and on Tuesday, the Crown corporation unveiled what it's calling an ambitious plan featuring a series of measures to help make its network more resilient.

Hydro-Quebec crews worked day and night to restore power after last April's ice storm.

Hundreds of thousands of customers were off the grid for days, making 2023 one of the worst years for power outages in the past 15 years, according to the power utility.

"We see the impact of climate change that we see on our grid. We have to make sure that we improve the quality and the reliability of our service to our customers," said Claudine Bouchard, Hydro-Quebec's executive vice-president and chief officer of operation and infrastructure.

Hydro-Quebec is investing $45 billion to $50 billion to improve its network. It's starting by tackling the root cause of a majority of power outages, spending $130 million to prune and cut trees near power lines this year alone.

"Forty per cent of our outages are provoked or caused by vegetation. So, if we work on vegetation, for sure, the outages are going to come down," Bouchard said.

West Island cities like Beaconsfield were without power for days last spring and Mayor Georges Bourelle says the suburb experiences frequent service disruptions.

"In Beaconsfield, we had, I think, seven or eight power outages since November," the mayor said.

Bourelle believes Hydro-Quebec's plan to cut 75,000 trees that pose a risk to the grid will help.

"I don't think it will certainly eliminate all power outages, but it can help," Bourelle said.

The mayor is still pushing for lines to be buried.

Hydro-Quebec says part of the plan is to bury seven kilometres of wires in Wakefield and Baie Comeau. But Bouchard says the utility works on a case-by-case basis.

"We really analyze each of our power lines to make sure that we invest at the right time, at the right place, with the right solution," Bouchard said.

Hydro-Quebec says it's counting on communication with communities to help improve service and invites Quebecers to give their feedback on its website.

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