Lengthy local power outage raises questions about hydro grid in G7 capital

From Doug Yonson

The major power outage after the May 21 storm – more than 8 days for most of us — awas hugely disrupting, and hugely upsetting, and hugely frustrating to many area residents. There will be post-mortems, but one question that arose often in our community is how sturdy, how stable, and how efficient the hydro grid infrastructure is locally.

Inconsistency

The inconsistency and unpredictability of the grid was revealed numerous times, with the homes in Carleton Square condominium to our east (adjacent to Pius High School) and through Central Park to our north never losing power, and the retail strip including the Loblaw’s Merivale, Walmart and Denny’s on Clyde, for example, also never losing power. The strip of homes along Baseline between Farlane and Fisher also never lost power, yet Villa Marconi to its west was on generator power for more than 8 days.

The latter situation can likely be explained because those Baseline homes were in the city of Ottawa prior to amalgamation – the boundary between Ottawa and Nepean ran along the rear property lines of those homes. Hence their infrastructure and networks were created and managed by the former Ottawa Hydro, not the former Nepean Hydro. The Villa Marconi buildings are primarily within the former Nepean.

Did amalgamation rationalise our grid?

But amalgamation in 2000 not only merged the various municipal hydro administrations, it also merged the varying grids and distribution networks. Have they been rationalized and made more efficient over the years?

There were several instances locally of trees falling on power lines along the rear property lines, which are more complicated to access and not visible to the passerby. And the tree damage was certainly significant in our community.

But those conditions presumably also applied in many areas of the city.

Last to recover

Residents will recall that our area was also among the last to recover power from the 2018 tornado. The challenge then was to create new distribution networks that bypassed the Merivale Road substation that was severely damaged by the tornado. Again, that issue was the same across the city, yet we were among the last to recover.

Councillors ultimately responsible

The city of Ottawa owns Hydro Ottawa, and hence city councillors are ultimately responsible for its operations, although Hydro Ottawa has a separate board of directors appointed by city council.

Coun. Egli in fact served our community, and the entire ward, very well, maintaining continuing contact with Hydro Ottawa officials and sending out one or more e-mail updates each day with specific information about affected communities. But it surely should not have come down to all this.

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