How we power the city

on .

By Jon Connor,
Assistant to the Chair of the Environment Committee

On a blustery day in April, Councillor David Chernushenko joined seven fellow councillors and representatives from Hydro Ottawa for a behind-the-scenes look at how electricity is generated and distributed in the City of Ottawa.

Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc. (Hydro Ottawa) owns and operates two subsidiary companies: Hydro Ottawa Limited and Energy Ottawa Inc. Hydro Ottawa Limited is the third largest municipally owned electrical utility in Ontario, serving more than 310,000 customers in the City of Ottawa and the Village of Casselman.

Energy Ottawa is the largest municipally-owned producer of green power in Ontario. It owns and operates six run-of-the river hydroelectric generation plants at Chaudière Falls in the city’s core, and holds interests in two landfill gas-to-energy joint ventures, including the Trail Road Landfill Generating Facility. Energy Ottawa also operates several small-scale solar power installations, such as the rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed at City Hall and other municipal facilities. Together, these systems and facilities produce enough clean electricity to power 40,000 homes annually.

The tour began at Energy Ottawa's Generating Station No. 2 at Chaudière Falls. Commissioned by E.H. Bronson in 1891 during the lumber boom, this heritage-designated building is the oldest operating hydroelectric facility in Canada.

Although the station was completely rebuilt and fully automated in 2001, elements of the facility's past — including charming antique controls and signage — have been preserved to give visitors an impression of what the facility looked like 100 years ago.

The facility contains four water turbines and generators with a combined capacity of about 8.4 megawatts. They generate about 61,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy each year — enough to power 5,500 homes.

Removing our safety hard hats, we then went outside to view the powerful Chaudière Falls and the Ring Dam, which has historically served to allocate the flow of water between the various stakeholders on both sides of the river (e.g., Domtar Corporation, Hydro Québec, etc.). In 2012, Energy Ottawa purchased additional interest in the Ring Dam and remaining water rights at Chaudière Falls from Domtar Corporation. A major benefit of this acquisition is that the Chaudière Falls site is one of the largest remaining water-power sites available in Ontario, with expansion opportunities that could see Energy Ottawa's hydroelectric capacity grow to 60 megawatts (MW), representing enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

Many local governments in Canada do not have the advantage of owning their local electricity generation and distribution companies. Both Hydro Ottawa and Energy Ottawa can be seen as valuable assets that provide stable and reliable returns to the City as a shareholder. They also represent a significant source of local knowledge and expertise, as well as crucial electricity infrastructure, all of which can be leveraged to advance a variety of community objectives.

As we explore opportunities to transition to a low-carbon economy, for example, these municipal subsidiaries will be key players, particularly in terms of their ability to generate increasing amounts of energy from local renewable energy sources.

To learn more about Energy Ottawa's plans for hydro, solar and landfill-gas electricity generation, click here.