You Asked, We Answer: What causes power outages and how are you preventing them?

You Asked, We Answer: What causes power outages and how are you preventing them?

Power outages can be frustrating and disruptive to your day – especially when they’re unexpected. It’s why we work year-round to maintain and strengthen our electrical system.

We do everything we can to prevent power outages. Through planning and innovative technology, we’re always inspecting, testing and improving our infrastructure. But Nova Scotia’s position on the edge of the North Atlantic Ocean can bring challenges, and power outages do still happen.

In this week’s You Asked, We Answer, we’re breaking down the answer to one of your most-asked questions: what causes power outages?

Severe weather

Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in Nova Scotia—and its impacts lead to weakened trees which can sometimes fall on our lines. It’s why we spend $20 million each year on tree trimming along approximately 1000 kms of power lines to prevent outages.

We’re seeing the impacts of climate change year-over-year – from shifting weather patterns, to increased wind speed. Outages caused by severe weather can include lightning strikes, heavy snow or ice buildup on lines, high winds, tropical storms and hurricanes, and other extreme weather conditions.

As our weather changes, we’re modernizing our grid and investing in innovative solutions to stand up to climate change. Decisions on how we invest are guided by outage statistics and equipment monitoring and data. This allows us to be strategic in how we upgrade the grid through large scale projects in each region, and through targeted equipment upgrades and repairs.

Salt Contamination

Salt contamination is a common issue with coastal utilities, and even some inland areas that use road salt. Salt water is a great conductor of electricity that can cause electrical shorting on parts of our system designed to protect it, such as insulators, which hold the power lines to the top of the poles. Wind blows salt onto equipment over a period of hours or days, and when the temperature rises, the moisture in the air causes electrical arcing across the equipment which can lead to outages. When it rains, the salt on the equipment usually washes away and resolves the issue, but continued moisture in windy conditions can also blow more salt on the equipment causing the issue to reoccur.

Non-weather-Related Outages

While severe weather causes most of the power outages Nova Scotians experience, there are other reasons you might lose power – even on a blue-sky day.

Power outages can be caused by elements that are out of our control. This could include a motor vehicle accident, like when a car hits one of our poles, construction, or even animals or birds coming into contact with our electrical equipment.  In some cases, trees that have been weakened by previous wind storms, can also fall into powerlines days or even weeks after the storm is over.  As part of our tree-trimming program we remove these weakened trees as well.

Planned Power Outages             

As part of our work to strengthen and maintain our infrastructure and equipment, we sometimes need to temporarily disconnect power to certain areas so our crews can work safely. When this is required, we make every effort to make the planned outage as short as possible, and to have it take place at times that are convenient for customers. If a planned outage needs to happen in your community, we call impacted customers beforehand so they have a heads up, and know the expected duration of the outage.

Have more questions about why outages happen and how we work to prevent them? Visit to learn more about how we’re modernizing our grid, and strengthening our electrical system – for today, and for the future. 

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