By Doug Hallett
Hydro One’s plan to refurbish its transmission capacity in and around Guelph has been challenged by groups arguing the upgrade isn’t needed and also by west end residents concerned about higher electrical towers near their homes.
However, Guelph Hydro says it is very concerned that any further delays in this refurbishment project could jeopardize the local utility’s ability to provide a reliable supply of power to its customers.
The fact that the transmission system feeding the city has reached its capacity means Guelph is “already being negatively impacted” through unnecessarily long power outages, says Guelph Hydro Inc. CEO Barry.
“If the transmission constraint is not addressed, the city could be forced to limit growth in order to ensure the supply of electricity to current users,” Chuddy said in a recent letter to city hall.
“With the transmission system into Guelph at capacity, there is no longer any redundancy that would enable the continued flow of power to Guelph in the event of a transmission system failure upstream of Guelph,” Chuddy said.
If an extended heat wave hits Guelph at the same time as one of the very old transmission lines feeding the south end of the city fails, Guelph could see rotating blackouts, he warned.
“In today’s society, a reliable source of power is considered a necessity,” he said. “The spectre of rotating brownouts or blackouts would severely damage the ability of the City of Guelph to attract new business, would result in productivity losses for those firms already located in the community and would negatively impact the health and well-being of residents.”
Chuddy said Guelph needs “an integrated mix of solutions that includes energy conservation, local sources of generation and upgraded transmission.”
However, a city staff report that went to a city council meeting in December said there’s no evidence that Hydro One has considered this sort of integrated mix of solutions.
Council approved a series of staff recommendations, which included directing top city hall officials to contact provincial government ministers to seek their help with Guelph’s applications for approval for local electricity-generation projects.
City staff were also directed to look into the feasibility of formally intervening in Hydro One’s process for getting approval for the transmission refurbishment project, perhaps when Hydro One seeks permission to construct from the Ontario Energy Board.
As part of its transmission refurbishment project, Hydro One is planning to upgrade five kilometres of transmission line to 230 kilovolts from the existing 115 kilovolts. In June, west end residents in the Deerpath Drive area asked Hydro One to look at alternatives to building new 125-foot towers, about twice the height of the existing ones, near their homes.
However, a Hydro One report that also went to council in December says no viable options have been found to its plan for this transmission line.
“Concerns expressed by the public primarily related to property values, electric and magnetic fields, and the visual effects of the transmission line to residents in the Deerpath Drive area,” says the executive summary of a report on Hydro One’s environmental assessment into the refurbishment project.
Options for the 550-metre section of transmission line near Deerpath Drive were investigated, but “none of the options were determined to be feasible or acceptable,” the summary states.
Hydro One says it plans to apply to the Ontario Energy Board for permission to construct.
If permission is granted, detailed engineering and construction would start in the spring of 2013, with Hydro One targeting completion for the end of 2015.
The refurbishment project has drawn criticism from a variety of sources, including the Guelph Civic League and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner. Schreiner plans to run in Guelph in the provincial election that’s expected in 2013.
The Guelph Civic League believes a new transmission line to supply Guelph with power generated outside of the city would likely undermine the city’s efforts with its Community Energy Initiative, said a letter released by civic league president David Sills.
“Guelph residents have shown that they strongly support going beyond standard approaches to resource management, whether it be water or waste,” Sills’s letter said. The Ontario Power Authority and Hydro One should “allow the same kind of community resolve when it comes to energy by respecting” the Community Energy Initiative, he said.
Schreiner also said that building new transmission lines to bring outside power into Guelph would undermine Guelph’s efforts to meet energy needs locally.
“It would hurt local job creation and green energy businesses,” and it would “diminish the economic and environmental benefits” of the Community Energy Initiative, a letter released by Schreiner said.
Schreiner said he wants the Ontario Power Authority and Hydro One to halt plans to build new transmission lines to Guelph until every effort has been made to meet Guelph’s electricity needs locally through the framework of the Community Energy Initiative.
He called the Community Energy Initiative “a visionary initiative that establishes an important model for community energy planning across the province.”