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Plan will bring more reliable power to Northwest, says Hydro One

Investments in five-year investment plan will reduce outages by a quarter, Hydro One CEO says during Thunder Bay visit
Mark Poweska Hydro One 1
Hydro One CEO Mark Poweska touted the benefits of the utility's investment plan during a visit to Thunder Bay on Wednesday. (Ian Kaufman, TBNewswatch)

THUNDER BAY — Hydro One says an investment plan it’s filed with Ontario’s energy regulator will bring more reliable electricity to its customers in Northwestern Ontario.

CEO Mark Poweska touted the benefits of the company’s five-year investment plan during a stop at the Lakehead Transmission Station in Thunder Bay on Dec. 8.

Notably, he said upgrades included in the plan will reduce power outages by around 25 per cent, and bring more reliable energy to First Nations in the region.

The company couldn’t say Wednesday how much of the plan’s $17-billion investment would be spent in Northwestern Ontario, but Poweska said the region would see significant improvements.

“There’s some major infrastructure in this area, like the transmission station I’m at today,” he said. “We’ll be doing a component-by-component replacement of this facility. Many of the components here were built in the 1940s… and we need to refurbish or replace much of the equipment in this region.”

In a release, the company said commitments in the plan specific to the Northwest include installing or renewing over 250 kilometres of high-voltage power lines, upgrading infrastructure including the Lakehead Transmission Station and Port Arthur Transmission Station, and refurbishing or replacing over 1,500 wood poles.

The utility is also promising to “improve power reliability to First Nations communities through innovative battery solutions” and install smart devices in the Northwest that it said will improve reliability “for customers who experience the most power outages.”

The utility distributes power to the vast majority of Northwestern Ontario outside of Thunder Bay, which is served by Synergy North.

In a statement, Synergy North said the investments will also bring local benefits.

“We are particularly excited for the upgrade to the Port Arthur Transmission Station which will help enable vehicle electrification and future generation here in the City of Thunder Bay,” said president Tim Wilson.

Hydro One sees the potential for growing energy demand in the region due to the mining industry, Poweska said.

That was welcome news to Wendy Landry, Shuniah mayor and president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA), who was on hand for Poweska’s visit Wednesday.

“We have a lot of mines,” she said. “We believe we’re the future of the province of Ontario with the resources we have available. But without energy, we’re nothing.”

Landry said northern municipalities were consulted during the creation of the plan, and that NOMA was pleased with it.

“These kinds of investments are exactly what [we’ve] been asking for,” she said. “You go down the highway and look at the municipality of Greenstone… and how many times there’s hours of power outages… All of our other communities, we’ve dealt with power outages all these years. This is something NOMA has been advocating for for a long time.”

Hydro One’s investment plan is part of the Joint Rate Application the utility filed with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) in August.

— TBNewsWatch