Hydro Ottawa

A dollar spent today saves a fistful down the road

Hydro Ottawa committed to being a reliable custodian of your money

The typical Ottawa household experiences only a single hour, on average, without electricity each year.

It’s an outstanding record that Norm Fraser, Hydro Ottawa’s COO, Distribution and Customer Service, intends to maintain.

“I always ask people if they remember the August 2003 blackout, or the Great Ice Storm of ’98, because these are reminders of how much we take the power grid for granted,” he said.

A lot has changed in recent decades. There was a time when the average home relied on electricity for lighting and to keep the groceries from spoiling. Now, it’s hard to remember life without tablets, smartphones, Wi-Fi networks, and home automation and security systems.

Our capacity to live without electricity is practically non-existent. Our needs and demands are greater than ever. But much of the infrastructure that brings it to our homes and workplaces is aging and reaching the end of its useful life.

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that from 2010 until 2030, about $350 billion will have to be invested in Canada’s electricity system to meet the demands of a growing population and the use of new technologies.

That means that current annual investments of $9 billion to $11 billion will have to accelerate to about $15 billion per year, according to the Hon. Sergio Marchi, President and CEO of the Canadian Electricity Association.

“We will lose our competitive edge, economic opportunities and quality of life, if we do not make these investments now to ensure electricity is available and reliable in the near future,” he said.

The team at Hydro Ottawa is taking a pragmatic approach to think long-term, leverage new technologies, and be proactive with maintenance, repair and replacement. The goal is to ensure Ottawa residents continue to enjoy reliable service and remedy issues that do exist in some parts of the city with older infrastructure, while keeping rates reasonable.

That also means keeping abreast of new retail and residential developments in the suburbs and other new infrastructure builds that put added load on the system, such as Light Rail Transit.

Aging electrical infrastructure is a growing crisis throughout the industrialized world. Fraser points to the example of many U.S. utilities, which haven’t planned ahead and now find themselves spending money hand over fist, dogged by one system failure after another. Resources are wasted and service reliability suffers.

“Utilities that don’t tackle this issue of age head on and make the kinds of surgical decisions that we are, find themselves chasing their tails rather than planning ahead,” Fraser said. “Our job is to invest wisely in the power system to ensure it continues to work reliably.”