PUC Proposes Community-Wide Electrical Distribution System Upgrade

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photo by Lynne Brown/Superior Media

On Monday July 9th, at a special meeting of Council, PUC President and CEO Rob Brewer will be seeking Council approval for a proposed Community Smart Grid Project.

This proposed community-wide infrastructure renewal project will see the investment of new technology into the local electricity system that will result in improved system efficiency, a reduction in the frequency of power outages, and when they occur, shorter power interruptions.

“Essentially, what we aim to do with this project is to modernize our community’s electricity grid,” said Brewer, “Once the project is completed, our customers will have access to an electricity grid that can handle the demands of a city in the 21st century.”

The Project includes; Infrastructure Energy as the developer, Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners as the investor, and Black & Veatch as the contractor. Brewer described this project as modernizing the community’s electricity grid os that it can handle the demands of a city in the 21st century.

‘Smart Grid’ is a general industry term that is used to describe the recent incorporation of both automated technical infrastructure and renewable energy in the electricity industry. Locally, the word is being used to describe the integration of new technology into our electric system that will, among other things, allow us to better control the voltage being delivered to customers. While this will result in an increase in energy efficiency, customers will also find that the improved efficiency will result in a 4% energy savings thereby reducing their energy consumption, and ultimately, their electricity bill.

Ratepayers are expected to see $0.11 savings per customer. “Ratepayer is seeing the benefit, but not the cost. So it is really a unique opportunity for us,” Brewer explained.

The other significant benefit of PUC’s proposed Smart Grid project is what is known as Distribution Automation. Distribution Automation allows the power distribution system to ‘self-heal,’ meaning that when the system experiences a power interruption, through automation, the system has the ability to automatically open and close switches in the distribution system to minimize the size and number of customers affected by the outage.

This technology will not only decrease the amount of outages customers’ experience but will also reduce the duration of those outages.

“I think that it’s fair to say, the first question on the minds of the most customers is ‘This project sounds good but how much will it cost me?’ said Giordan Zin, PUC Supervisor of Customer Engagement. “Well the answer is, the Smart Grid project can be completed without a net increase in the customer’s bill. This is because while the project will increase PUC’s Capital costs, customers will actually see a decrease in energy consumption – which means a lower electricity bill.”

Total direct project costs are anticipated to be $32,751,469, with $14,340,000 expected (approximately) in funding, bringing the net project cost down to $18,501,469. The anticipated funding is expected to come from a federal source as well as from Ontario’s NOHFC.

When asked about the down sides of this new Smart Grid, Brewer said “We haven’t found a downfall… All the technology we are bringing to the table has worked well. The difference from what we are doing versus what has been done elsewhere in Canada is that other places have done pilots in small pockets in the community while we are implementing it community wide.”

Should PUC receive Council’s approval on Monday, the project will move to the engineering stage, with the goal of reconstruction by 2019. The project is expected to be completed by early 2020. PUC is committed to keeping customers informed on the progress of this exciting project, and will be providing updates as new information is available.

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Riley Smith
Riley Smith is an enthusiastic and versatile critical thinker who has been with SaultOnline since January 2018. She holds a double Honours Degree in History and Political Science from Algoma University, and a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Relations and Event Management from Sault College. In addition to obtaining her Google Marketing Fundamentals certification, she is also working towards a Certificate in Diversity and Intercultural Relations. She has hands-on experience in social media marketing, media relations, public relations and news writing, event planning, and stakeholder relations, developed through experience as the First Nations and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator for the Missanabie Cree First Nation. When she's not reporting, you can find her reading, working out, spending time with her basset hound, Douggie, or seeing the world, one breathtaking view at a time.

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