Editorial: Muskoka's Champagne hydro prices for Beer budget service - 1950's technology in 2019

Tree branch resting on hydro lines along Aspdin Road in Huntsville on Nov. 4

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Agatha Farmer

During the first snow event of the 2019 fall season some Muskoka residents woke up to a freezing house, myself included, due to a power outage. Now that would be tolerable if I didn't know the fact that it will happen again once more, twice, or thrice in the next few weeks.

I'm a publisher and a journalist but I don't make my living on the evening news but rather social media and the world wide web. This translates into the fact that I often work from a home office and am in need of power to perform my job to the best of my abilities so that I can make a living. An unreliable and archaic power grid will stall the empire building process. I joke of course, but not really because frequent power outages affect business productivity.

The subpar service in Muskoka given the age of the regions power grid is not hard to comprehend on a technical level.

Richard Francella, Hydro One media relations, said the majority of Hydro One’s system in the Muskoka region was built in the 1950s and requires prudent investments to keep the public safe, reduce power outages and offset the need for more expensive emergency repairs down the road.

Let's just ponder that for a quick second; most of the regions power grid was built in the 1950's and Ontarian's pay some of the highest electricity bills in North America. So where has this investment been over the last 70 years? Here is a brief history of power generation in Ontario.

Bad provincial policy decisions made during the 2000's in addition to Ontario Hydro's over budget construction of nuclear projects in the 80's and 90's.

In 2003 the Liberal government updated aging hydro infrastructure and replaced coal plants with natural gas, wind, and solar. Outsourced the work and operation of the new power plants to the private sector in exchange for 20 year contracts from the province regardless of how much power these new plants actually produced.

The cost of this upgrade was passed on to the ratepayer, unfortunately for Muskoka who still runs on a system from the 1950's; Where was our upgrade? Are we not paying more along with the rest of the province?

In 2015 Auditor-General Bonnie Lysk estimated that the average cost of electricity is only 30 percent of the consumers bill, the other 70 percent belongs to the 'global adjustment charge.' She also calculated that Ontarian's had paid $37 billion more than market price for electricity from 2006 to 2014 and will be paying another $133 billion extra by 2032.

Ontario built more power plants than it actually required. In 2014 Ontario had the capacity to produce 30, 203 megawatts of power and only needed 15, 959 on an average day.

Hydro One's privatization was completed in May 2017 and has not led to improved service or an upgraded grid in Muskoka.

When I pay $100 for my power to be delivered in addition to my electricity usage I expect better delivery Hydro One. I also expect that my luxury hydro price provide me with top notch luxury service. Tit for Tat.

The next time your 1950's grid glitches Muskoka fear not because according to Francella "Hydro One is committed to providing safe, reliable power to the Muskoka region now and into the future. We know that any outage can disrupt customers, impact businesses and productivity, which is why we continuously make prudent investments into our infrastructure, technologies that help detect outages and restore power faster, and trimming hazardous trees in the Muskoka region."

I wouldn't classify Muskoka's power as reliable at the moment, perhaps in the future.

Funny he brought up trimming trees. Yes, it is true that I have seen Hydro crews in Muskoka trimming trees. Definitely not as much as it's actually required given that most of our region is covered by trees. The level of service there is subpar as well. Last year I phoned Hydro One to advise them that a rather large branch had landed on their lines. The operator diligently took down all the information and that branch remained on that wire for weeks following that call. The take away was; If it didn't cause a power outage, screw it.

The picture you see above was taken on Aspdin Road in Huntsville on Nov.4. Fairly busy Muskoka roadway connecting to Hwy 11, and as you can see not one branch but several hang on hydro lines.

Francella said that in the "heavily-forested Muskoka region, tree contact is the most prominent outage cause in the region. In a September announcement, Hydro One acknowledged frequent outages in the region and announced a $16 million investment over the next two years to help reduce outages in the area. As part of Hydro One's new, more effective and efficient program for trimming hazardous trees, corridors in the region will now be trimmed every 3-years instead of the original 8 to 10-year cycle. Over the next two years, Hydro One will install 450 communicating fault indicators to better detect the location of an outage; connect 38 smart switches to limit the amount of customers impacted by outages and improve power restoration times; and, trim hazardous trees along 2,000 kilometers of power lines, about the same distance as the drive from Toronto to Orlando, Florida. These investments and installations are already underway, with Hydro One crews having installed a number of smart switches on October 27th. Through these investments, Hydro One will be able to reduce the number, size and duration of power outages in the Muskoka region."

Well I'm glad we're worth $16 million after decades of waiting for infrastructure improvements. Perhaps out of the $16 million we could take a few hundred thousand and add to the tree trimming budget.

Hydro one provided me with the below links in case you'd like to check out why you're paying hundreds in delivery costs, and the overdue announcement of Hydro's $16 million investment into a 70 year old grid.

For more information on the delivery cost, please see:  https://www.hydroone.com/rates-and-billing/rates-and-charges/residential For more information on September’s announcement, please see: http://hydroone.mediaroom.com/2019-09-20-Hydro-One-investing-16-million-to-reduce-outages-and-improve-reliability-in-the-Muskoka-region

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