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Toronto Hydro says $4B needed over 10 years to upgrade infrastructure

November 5, 2014 6:33 pm

By Global News

TORONTO – Toronto Hydro says the number of power outages in five Toronto neighbourhoods, frequently left in the dark, is due to aging infrastructure.

But one energy analyst questions whether that infrastructure is the prime reason for the number of blackouts across Toronto each year.

A Toronto Hydro report on the city’s infrastructure says nearly 60 per cent of the infrastructure needs to be rebuilt over the next 20 years: 30 per cent of equipment used to distribute energy is past its life span, and 30 per cent more will reach that state in the next two decades.

Five areas in Toronto which have most frequently needed repairs due to aging infrastructure since 2012:

  • An area between Neilson Road and Markham Road on Washburn Way sees 3.67 outages each year
  • An area on Morningside Avenue between McLevin Avenue and Sheppard Avenue sees 3.67 outages each year
  • Side streets adjacent to Old Finch road sees roughly 7.6 outages each year
  • The area south of Highway 401 between Bathurst Street and Avenue faces eight outages each year.
  • An area bordered by Steeles Avenue West, Weston Road and Fenmar Drive also has eight outages each year.

A map of power outages which occurred in Toronto in 2013

The report also claims aging infrastructure or equipment is responsible for roughly 40 per cent of all outages – more than any other reason.

The total cost to replace the equipment? $5.6 billion according to Toronto Hydro.

Since 2012, Toronto has spent roughly $2 billion on infrastructure – and they’re asking for more. They currently have an application before the Ontario Energy Board which regulates the company for $4 billion in infrastructure and maintenance funding over five years.

“We’ve put forward a plan for the next five years,” Tanya Bruckheimer, a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro said. “We’re looking about an average of $2 per month.”

The OEB refused to comment on this story due to the ongoing application.

But Tom Adams, a Toronto-based energy consultant, said aging infrastructure is only a small part of the problem.

“But when you dig into liability events that we had, Hurricane Sandy, the Thorncliffe park blackout in 2013, the Union Street blackout in April this year,” Adams said. “[Toronto Hydro] said aging infrastructure is the root cause. In each case there was really very poor management in either what happened or the response to it.”

That being said, he admits aging infrastructure plays a role: Toronto was one of the first cities in North America to be electrified and has its fair share of aging infrastructure.  But so does Chicago and New York City.

“A good utility takes old assets and squeezes best value from them and it’s not clear that Toronto hydro is getting best value out of old assets,” he said.

“Yes they’ve got old assets, but no they shouldn’t have just carte blanche to redo the entire system. It’s too expensive.”

Tanya Bruckheimer, a spokesperson for Toronto Hydro, wouldn’t comment on Adams’ claims due to the ongoing application for more money before the OEB.

She did however say, the current application is a long-term “responsible” one.

“We have recognized and customers are frustrated to say ‘why haven’t you been investing more, why didn’t you see this coming’ so we looked at a responsible long-term plan that smooths out rates for customers, that allows us to invest in the grid but also doesn’t impact the bill significantly.”