Transcript: Building Sault Ste. Marie's Smart Grid | Jun 04, 2021

Jeyan sits inside a room with blue walls and an open door in the background. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing a blue suit and a pale blue shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Building a smart grid in Sault Saint Marie. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says THE ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD JUST APPROVED THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE SAULT SMART GRID, THE LARGEST PROJECT OF ITS KIND IN NORTH AMERICA. NICK DUNNE COVERS THE NORTHEAST FOR OUR ONTARIO HUBS AND HE JOINS US NOW FROM SUDBURY FOR MORE.

Nick is in his twenties, clean-shaven, with wavy brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt and brown tie.

Jeyan continues HI, NICK

Nick says HEY, JEYAN.

Jeyan says LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. WHAT EXACTLY IS A SMART GRID?

The caption changes to "Nick Dunne. Northeastern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Nick says WELL, LET'S BACK THAT UP EVEN FURTHER AND TALK ABOUT WHAT THE ELECTRIC GRID IS. THE ELECTRIC GRID IS THE DISTRIBUTION FROM THE POWER PLANT ALL THE WAY TO YOUR HOME. SO THOSE GIANT TRANSMISSION LINES THAT GO DOWN THE HIGHWAY, ALL THE WAY TO THOSE SUBSTATIONS, THOSE GIANT BOXES WITH ALL THE ELECTRIC WIRES FLYING AROUND EVERYWHERE TO YOUR HYDRO POLES THAT YOU SEE ON YOUR STREET THAT CONNECT INTO YOUR HOUSE. THAT IS THE ELECTRIC GRID, THE ENTIRETY OF THAT SYSTEM. A SMART GRID, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS STILL THAT SYSTEM, BUT IT'S APPLYING VARIOUS SMART TECHNOLOGIES, USING INTERNET-ENABLED COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE METER IN YOUR HOME, COMPONENTS ON THE GRID, YOU KNOW, VARIOUS PARTS OF THE GRID, AND ACROSS TO THE CENTRAL CONTROL STATION OF THIS DISTRIBUTION GRID. AND BASICALLY USING VARIOUS AUTOMATION PROCESSES AND BEING ABLE TO LIVE READ ENERGY AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT FROM ANYONE'S HOME TO YOUR LARGEST BUSINESSES IN TOWN, YOU CAN DYNAMICALLY CONTROL AND, I GUESS, MAKE IT MORE EFFICIENT THROUGH VARIOUS PROCESSES. THAT'S IT IN A NUTSHELL.

Jeyan says NOW, FOR YOUR ARTICLE FOR TVO.org YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE SMART GRID IN SAULT STE. MARIE. BUT HAVE THERE BEEN SORT OF SMART GRIDS ELSEWHERE IN ONTARIO?

The caption changes to "Nick Dunne, @NickFDunne."

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Sault Saint Marie. What Sault Saint Marie's smart grid will mean for residents -and cyber security. By Nick Dunne."

Nick says YEAH. THEY'VE DEFINITELY BEEN APPLIED IN A LOT OF PILOT PROJECTS ACROSS THE GTA. THERE HAVE BEEN SOME IN OTTAWA. I MEAN, THEY ARE QUITE NUMEROUS ACROSS CANADA, ESPECIALLY IN THE UNITED STATES. YOU KNOW, THERE ARE SOME VERY LARGE PROJECTS IN, YOU KNOW, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. BUT WHAT MAKES THE SAULT SMART GRID UNIQUE IS THEY HAVE ALL AT ONCE IN A COMPRESSED TIME YEAR AND IT'S GOING TO BE APPLIED TO THE ENTIRETY OF ITS GRID. AS A PERCENTAGE OF THE UTILITY ITSELF, YOU KNOW, THERE ARE POSSIBLY LARGER PROJECTS OUT THERE, BUT RELATIVE TO ITS SIZE, IT'S AN INCREDIBLY AMBITIOUS PROJECT.

Jeyan says I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY GOING TO BE ASKING WHY SAULT STE. MARIE? WHY IS THIS PROJECT NOT BEING DONE ELSEWHERE? WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE SAULT THAT MAKES IT SORT OF IDEAL FOR THIS SORT OF PROJECT?

A map of Canada pops up on screen and homes in on Sault Saint Marie, west of Sudbury.

Nick says RIGHT. SO THE CITY OF SAULT STE. MARIE IN 2008 DECLARED THEMSELVES THE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY CAPITAL OF NORTH AMERICA. THEY ARE A NET PRODUCER ON THE GRID. AND THEY HAVE SOME OF THE LARGEST WIND AND HYDROELECTRIC PLANTS IN THE PROVINCE. SO THEY'VE REALLY INVESTED IN THIS KIND OF ENERGY. AND THEIR UTILITY DISTRIBUTION COMPANY IS OWNED BY THE CITY. SO THEY'VE REALLY INVESTED, I GUESS, TO FURTHER THAT BRANDING, I KNOWS, AND INVEST IN THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE TO... I SUPPOSE, AND INVEST IN THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE TO REALIZE SOME COST SAVINGS DOWN THE ROAD, NOT ONLY FOR THEM BUT THEIR CUSTOMERS AS WELL.

Jeyan says WE TALK ABOUT THE SMART GRID. DO WE KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE THIS WILL BE SERVING WHEN WE TALK ABOUT RESIDENCES AND BUSINESSES.

Nick says THIS IS GOING TO SERVE THE ENTIRETY OF THE CUSTOMER BASE, SO ABOUT 33,000 HOMES AND A WHOLE WIDE VARIETY OF BUSINESSES, INCLUDING ALGOMA STEEL, WHICH IS OBVIOUSLY A HUGE, HUGE CONSUMER OF ELECTRICITY. YOU KNOW, MELTING IRON DOWN AND PROCESSING IT INTO STEEL AND PRODUCING IT REQUIRES A TON OF ENERGY. SO THIS IS GOING TO BE ACROSS THE ENTIRETY OF THE GRID.

Jeyan says WE TALKED ABOUT, YOU KNOW, RESIDENTS. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO SEE IN TERMS OF BENEFITS? I THINK AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHEN WE SEE SOMETHING LIKE A SMART GRID, WE WANT TO KNOW ARE WE ACTUALLY SAVING DOLLARS AND CENTS AND WHAT ACTUALLY WILL THOSE FIGURES LOOK LIKE? SO WHAT CAN WE SEE AS HOME OWNERS AND BUSINESS OWNERS?

Nick says YEAH, THERE'S SOME REALLY INTERESTING THINGS HERE. SO THE FIRST ONE I'D LIKE TO TALK ABOUT IS DISTRIBUTION AUTOMATION. TRADITIONALLY, IF THERE WAS A POWER OUTAGE, YOUR CREW WOULD HAVE TO GO OUT AND MANUALLY LOCATE WHAT THE SOURCE OF THAT POWER OUTAGE WAS. WAS IT A TREE? WAS IT AN ANIMAL? WAS THERE SOME ISSUE WITH THE TRANSFORMER? THIS WOULD TAKE TIME. THEY'D HAVE TO GO STREET BY STREET, TRYING TO LOCATE AND TRY TO FIGURE OUT THE SIZE OF THE OUTAGE AND THEN THEY'D HAVE TO MANUALLY REROUTE POWER, MANUALLY REPAIR IT, AND THIS COULD TAKE HOURS, SOMETIMES EVEN DAYS. WE'VE SEEN THAT IN THE SOUTHERN UNITED STATES. WHAT THE SMART GRID CAN DO, YOU KNOW, WHEN USED PROPERLY, IS AUTOMATICALLY REROUTE THE POWER AND ALSO FIND WHERE THAT OUTAGE IS PRECISELY. SO IT SAVES A LOT OF TIME FOR CREWS TO FIX IT AND IT WILL AUTOMATICALLY RESTORE POWER. NOW, MAYBE, YOU KNOW, DURING A POWER OUTAGE, YOU'RE BOILING SOME TEA AND YOU CAN'T DO THAT ANYMORE. BUT YOU'VE GOT TO THINK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOSPITALS, DATA CENTRES, ALL THESE ESSENTIAL SERVICES. EVEN YOUR STREETLIGHTS, RIGHT? OUTAGES CAN BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS AND INTERRUPTIVE. THE SECOND IS A VOLTAGE BAR OPTIMIZATION. THIS IS A LITTLE BIT TECHNICAL. BUT CERTAINLY THERE ARE CERTAIN UTILITIES, APPLIANCES IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD, THAT USE MORE ENERGY THAN THEY ACTUALLY NEED. THEY HAVE TO... THEY HAVE TO CREATE AN ELECTRIC... ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD, PARDON ME, TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY. AND THIS CAUSES SOME ENERGY INEFFICIENCIES. THERE ARE WAYS TO REGULATE THAT, TO MINIMIZE IT, ON THE GRID. BUT THIS PROCESS, USING THE, YOU KNOW, THE LIVE METERING, YOU KNOW, THAT EVERY HOUSEHOLD HAS, THE UTILITY CAN SEE THE ENERGY USAGE OF EVERY HOUSEHOLD AND, YOU KNOW, CALIBRATE IT IN SUCH A WAY THAT YOU'RE GOING TO BE USING LESS ELECTRICITY TO POWER CERTAIN APPLIANCES. SO THIS ACTUALLY WILL RESULT IN SOME SAVINGS DOWN THE ROAD. IT'LL AFFECT LARGER UTILITIES AND LARGER ENERGY CONSUMERS A LITTLE BIT MORE. BUT AS WE SEE A MORE ELECTRIC SOCIETY, YOU KNOW, WHERE EVEN YOUR FRIDGE HAS A COMPUTER, YOU KNOW? YOU'RE GOING TO BE CHARGING YOUR CAR IN YOUR STORAGE UNIT. EVEN THE SMALL PERCENTAGE, 2.7 percent IS WHAT THEY'RE ESTIMATING IN THEIR TOTAL SAVINGS ACROSS THE GRID FOR ENERGY CONSUMPTION. THIS IS SAVING 2 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR AND SOMETHING LIKE 2800 TONNES OF CARBON EMISSIONS PER YEAR. SO IT REALLY DOES REALIZE PRETTY MAJOR SAVINGS WHEN APPLIED.

Jeyan says I WANT TO TALK ABOUT, A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT. YOU SAY THE PROJECT IS HOPING TO BE WRAPPED UP BY THE END OF NEXT YEAR. WAS THERE ANY OPPOSITION TO THE PROJECT, OR WAS IT PRETTY MUCH SMOOTH SAILING?

Nick says CERTAINLY. SO THERE WERE CERTAIN INTERVENORS ON THE ONTARIO ENERGY BOARD'S DECISION, ONE OF THEM BEING THE VULNERABLE ENERGY CONSUMERS OF CANADA. THEY FEEL AS THOUGH THE PROJECT MAY BE A LITTLE BIT TOO AMBITIOUS IN TERMS OF HOW THEY'RE PLANNING TO TIME IT AND DELIVER IT WITHIN THAT YEAR. THEY'D RATHER SEE A PHASED APPROACH. BUT THEY'RE TAKING THIS FASTER APPROACH TO SECURE NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA FUNDING, ABOUT 11 MILLION DOLLARS. AND THEY SEE THIS, YOU KNOW, TO SECURE THAT MONEY, THEY HAVE TO OPERATE WITHIN A CERTAIN TIME FRAME. AND THAT IS GOING TO, THEY FEEL, THE UTILITY, SAVE THEM MONEY IN THE LONG RUN AS OPPOSED TO APPLYING THIS OVER A 10-YEAR PERIOD.

Jeyan says WE HAVE ONLY ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT. I DO WANT TO KNOW, THIS PROJECT IS JUST GETTING UNDERWAY. IS THERE ANYTHING TO BE LEARNED FROM THIS SMART GRID PROJECT THAT CAN BE APPLIED ELSEWHERE?

Nick says IT'S VERY INTERESTING. THERE'S A DUAL NEED FOR UTILITIES TO, ON ONE HAND, BE INNOVATIVE AND TRY TO SAFE ENERGY, YOU KNOW? THEY DEAL WITH HUGE AMOUNTS OF POWER AND THERE'S HUGE SAVINGS THAT CAN BE REALIZED THERE, YOU KNOW, TO REDUCE OUR EMISSIONS. HOWEVER, UTILITIES ARE ALSO AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE, YOU KNOW? A JUMP IN YOUR UTILITY BILL CAN, YOU KNOW, DRIVE YOU OUT OF YOUR HOME, IT CAN SHUT DOWN YOUR BUSINESS. SO THERE ARE THESE VERY SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS AND TWO VERY OPPOSING FORCES HERE THAT HAVE TO BE CONSIDERED. BUT AS THESE TECHNOLOGIES HAVE BECOME MORE ADVANCED, THEY BECOME MORE TECHNICALLY SOUND, YOU KNOW, I THINK WE'RE GOING TO SEE THIS APPLIED ACROSS THE COUNTRY, AND SAULT STE. MARIE HAS CERTAINLY TAKEN A PRETTY BIG STEP FORWARD HERE IN THIS NEW UTILITY PROJECT.

The caption changes to "Producer: Carla Lucchetta, @carrletta."

Jeyan says SOME REALLY INTERESTING STUFF. THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS, NICK.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

Watch: Building Sault Ste. Marie's Smart Grid