Friday, July 19, 2024

Hydro Ottawa will need to double capital spending: CEO

Must read

“You’re not charging your iPhones if we’re not ready for it,” says Bryce Conrad, CEO and president of Hydro Ottawa.

Article content

Hydro Ottawa is “staring down the barrel of an historic investment” as it tries to meet the burgeoning demand for electricity, the utility’s CEO warned city council Tuesday.

Bryce Conrad said the federal government’s push to electrify and reduce Canada’s carbon footprint will require the country to double or even triple its electrical power generation over the next 25 years.

Advertisement 2

Article content

“Imagine every dam, turbine, nuclear plant and solar panel, then picture a couple of more next to them,” Conrad said, as he delivered Hydro Ottawa’s annual report to council.

“Two more Niagara Falls, two more James Bay projects in Quebec …

“This is something way more ambitious than any other national building projects in Canadian history, including the Canadian Pacific Railway, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Trans-Canada Highway,” Conrad said.

Although the federal government has invested enormously in power generation and transmission lines, there has been no money to help local power distribution systems like Hydro Ottawa, he said.

“We are, effectively, the last mile,” Conrad said. “You’re not charging your iPhones if we’re not ready for it.”

Hydro Ottawa has made applications to the Ontario Energy Board, which sets electricity rates, but Conrad wouldn’t guess how much it will all cost in the end. Hydro Ottawa has no control over its rates on its own. But the investment will require money from the federal and provincial governments.

“I think it’s too much to expect ratepayers to pay for it exclusively,” he said. “Some of that has to be paid for by the taxpayer.”

Advertisement 3

Article content

Demand for electricity is rising so fast that Hydro Ottawa is building a new sub-station every year, something that it used to do every five or seven years. In 2023, its helped install more than 500 new electrical vehicle charging stations, he said. There are now an estimated 5,800 electric vehicles in the city and 7,130 charging stations. People are turning to electric heat pumps to heat and cool their homes.

“Everything is moving toward electrification. It’s the key to decarbonization,” Conrad said.

Meanwhile, Hydro Ottawa continues to pick up the pieces from the May 2022 derecho that snapped 400 poles, downed kilometres of power lines and left 180,000 customers in the dark, some for as long as two weeks. Ottawa has become the “weather alert capital of Canada,” he said.

From the 2023 archives:

Welcome to Ottawa, the weather alert capital of Canada

It used to be that a bad storm might knock out power to 30,000 customers and crews would be able to restore it within six or eight hours, Conrad said.

“Then the derecho hits — no one had ever seen anything like it.”

Last July, Hydro Ottawa recorded 7,000 lightning strikes in its area, three times greater than it had ever seen before.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“These weather patterns are cruel and they’re nasty,” he said.

The derecho prompted Hydro Ottawa to up its game with its infrastructure. Old poles, stayed with guy-wires, are built to withstand winds of 130 km/h. The derecho winds were close to 200 km/h.

Hydro Ottawa is now using more steel and composite poles, is burying cables when cost and locations permit, is increasing its voltages to allow it to transfer power around the grid and is increasing the capacity of sub-stations so they can handle those increased voltages.

“The derecho was a very hard lesson learned for the company,” Conrad said. “It taught us where things need to be reinforced.”

Our website is your destination for up-to-the-minute news, so make sure to bookmark our homepage and sign up for our newsletters so we can keep you informed.

Article content

Latest article