Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Ottawa’s hydro grid ‘more resilient’ today following 2022 derecho

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The head of Hydro Ottawa says Ottawa’s hydro grid is “more resilient” today than it was in 2022, as the utility continues to strengthen the system following the derecho two years ago.

The severe weather that hit Ottawa in May 2022 caused $25 million in damage to hydro infrastructure, and left thousands of customers in the dark for days. Three tornadoes touched down in Ottawa last summer, causing some damage to hydro infrastructure.

Hydro Ottawa president and CEO Bryce Conrad told council on Wednesday that the utility has completed 85 per cent of the 13 priorities identified following the storm.

“I do want to stress that two years out from the derecho, we have strengthened our emergency capabilities enormously,” Conrad said.

“We’re now preparing, pre-positioning, mobilizing, responding and communicating more effectively and quickly.”

A hydro pole rests on the roof of a car on Merivale Road following the severe storm in Ottawa on May 21, 2022.

The report says Hydro Ottawa has increased inspections of infrastructure and equipment, implemented better outage reporting and notification tools and has implemented a system to expedite damage assessment during storms.  The Hydro Ottawa annual report says numerous projects have been completed to renew, replace and harden the system, with more planned over the coming years.

Conrad admits he still flinches when he sees weather alerts for severe weather.

“The short answer is that our system today is more resilient than it was yesterday, our system tomorrow will be more resilient than it is today,” Conrad said.

“Resilient in the sense that we’re putting in new technologies, we’re upscaling the voltages….we’re building five more of those (substations) over the course of the next five years, each one of those is capable of backloading to support an outage in another area.”

Conrad says Hydro Ottawa will need to prolong the life of the existing assets as the utility works to build resilience.

“What is otherwise a 40-year lifespan will have to be dragged out to 45-50 years. And we’ll have to maintain and monitor it and make sure that piece of infrastructure is doing what it needs to do. We have a plan for that,” Conrad said.

“If I leave here today with the message – massive investments coming your way, but we have a plan to deal with it. I’m not hitting any panic button other than the one I’d like the provincial and federal governments to give me more money.”

Conrad says Hydro Ottawa will be submitting a rate application to the Ontario Energy Board in 2025, which will include spending to meet “customer needs in relation to reliability, resilience, emergency response, electrification and grid modernization.”

Hydro Ottawa delivered a $20 million dividend to the City of Ottawa in 2024, based on the 2023 results.

Electric vehicle’s impact on the power grid

The head of Hydro Ottawa says the increase in electric cars is not having an impact on the hydro grid.

“Cars are generally charged overnight. If you’re charging your car very, very late at night, or early in the morning, the grid is there. The grid is 100 per cent capable of supporting a massive upswing in those cars,” Conrad said.

“If you start charging between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a 45-degree day, like we had last week, yah, we’re going to have some challenges. We’re nowhere near that problem yet.”

Conrad estimates there are 5,000 electric vehicles in Ottawa.

“You could effectively double or triple that number, I don’t think it’s going to have an adverse effect on the grid.”

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