Toronto power supply vulnerable, 2007 report warned

TORONTO – Six years before a record-setting rainstorm left hundreds of thousands of Torontonians in the dark, experts warned the region was vulnerable to just this sort of power outage.

West-end residents endured days of rolling blackouts after Monday’s rainstorm knocked two key hydro distribution centres offline.

And a report written in 2007 and obtained by Global News warns of exactly that, because not enough power is generated within the region.

“The ability of the existing infrastructure to supply these [west and north GTA] areas is expected to fall short by 2015,” the report reads.
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On Monday, an unprecedented storm dropped 126 mm of rain on the city, breaking the previous record of 121 mm set in October 1954 during Hurricane Hazel.

Related: Power restored to Toronto Hydro two days after unprecedented storm. 

That storm knocked out the transmission stations at Richview and Manby – both singled out in the 2007 report as being particularly at risk.

“Extraordinary events or major failures on the transmission system could lead to inadequate supply capacity or voltage stability issues. The risk of such events is significantly reduced with internal generation capacity.”

The report recommends building new gas generating power plants in the southwest part of the GTA.

But those two plants, which were to be located in Oakville and Mississauga, were cancelled prior to the 2011 election by the Ontario Liberal government.

“We had no serious political debate. All the parties lined up on getting rid of the plants, and so the power plants just got thrown to the sharks,” said Tom Adams, a Toronto-based energy consultant.

Ontario produces more than enough power to meet Toronto’s demands. The challenge “really is around the capability to bring that power into Toronto,” said Terry Young, VP of Corporate and Employee Relations at the Independent Electricity System Operator.

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Related: Watch a timelapse of Monday’s storm blowing across Toronto’s skyline. 

Toronto has two main corridors, each with two facilities, that feed power from Ontario’s generating grid into the city. Two of those facilities are in the east at Cherrywood and Leaside and two are in the west at Richview and Manby.

“Two of the major transformer stations [Richview and Manby] that actually do bring the power into the city were flooded out” Monday, Young said. “So you no longer had that major network, if you will, in order to bring that power in.”

New York City requires at least 80 per cent of its energy be generated inside of the city’s borders to protect against problems created by distant distribution facilities.

But there’s no such requirement in Ontario.

Adams said that plants in Mississauga and Oakville were supposed to take the place of the shuttered Lakeview coal-fired plant and serve as important backup power stations. The 2007 report states these gas-fired plants would help relieve the Richview and Manby transformers, which Adams says are “so overstretched that they can’t be taken out of service to be maintained.”

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“Politics intervened. And those critical backup power stations were moved,” he said. “One to Napanee and the other one to Sarnia. Which is ridiculous.”

The 2007 report notes that power generation within the region has declined rapidly since 1985.

“With less internal generation,” the report reads, “The GTA has become more dependent on the transmission system to import power into the GTA.”

With files from Jackson Proskow

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