Hydro One announces $16 million investment to reduce outages in Muskoka

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It will be welcome news for Muskoka residents who have endured multiple, and at times lengthy, power outages in recent years.

Today, Hydro One’s chief corporate affairs and customer care officer, Jason Fitzsimmons, unveiled a $16 million investment plan for Muskoka—which is already underway—at the company’s transmission station in Utterson.

The funds will be directed to new technologies and hazardous tree trimming within the region with the intent of reducing the number, size and duration of outages.

Fitzsimmons noted that the very things that draw people to live in this area—beautiful lakes, dense forests and rugged rock formations—make providing electrical service challenging.

“Long power lines can take hours to patrol looking for an outage when they occur. Strong winds and storms knock down tall trees into the lines and poles causing extensive damages which can result in lengthy outages,” Fitzsimmons told the dignitaries and media present for the announcement. “And compounding these issues is the fact that much of Hydro One’s electricity system was built in the 1950s and requires significant investment now.”

And the bottom line is that the Muskoka area has experienced too many outages and that’s simply not acceptable to us at Hydro One.
Jason Fitzsimmons, chief corporate affairs and customer care officer, Hydro One

The new technology investment includes 38 smart switches and 450 fault location indicators, “which allow us to monitor the system and remotely restore power from our Ontario Grid Control Centre,” said Fitzsimmons. “Now we don’t need to send crews to manually patrol lines and through these improved devices will be able to pinpoint where the exact faults are, and respond faster and get the power back online.”

The company has also increased its forestry operations, trimming hazardous trees every three years instead of every eight to 10, he added. There’s approximately 2,000km of power lines in the Muskoka region alone.

Hydro One chief corporate affairs and customer care officer Jason Fitzsimmons (front, third from right) with Hydro One workers (in orange), Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller (front left) and the mayors of Muskoka's six municipalities (front from second left) Karin Terziano (Huntsville), Peter Koetsier (Georgian Bay), Paul Kelly (Gravenhurst), Terry Glover (Lake of Bays), Graydon Smith (Bracebridge) and Phil Harding (Muskoka Lakes)

Hydro One chief corporate affairs and customer care officer Jason Fitzsimmons (front, fourth from right) with Hydro One workers (in orange), Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller (front left) and the mayors of Muskoka’s six municipalities (front from second left) Karin Terziano (Huntsville), Peter Koetsier (Georgian Bay, standing behind Terziano), Paul Kelly (Gravenhurst), Terry Glover (Lake of Bays), Graydon Smith (Bracebridge) and Phil Harding (Muskoka Lakes)

Huntsville’s Acting Mayor, Karin Terziano, thanked Hydro One for the investment, as well as the efforts of the crews on the ground. “The Hydro workers, the Lakeland workers, the men and women that are out there…putting the hydro back on for us,” she said.

Fitzsimmons said that new measures already implemented have resulted in about an 18 per cent improvement in outage duration over the past year.

“We have a lot of long lines,” he said. “You can imagine if there’s a fault on that line without the investment that we’re physically sending out employees to patrol the line. So they’re starting at one end and then they’re working their way back up the line to look at, is it a fallen tree or is there something else visible on the line that’s caused it.”

The 450 fault indicators, which simply clip over a power line, will be distributed throughout the region. When a fault is detected, the indicator relays a signal to Hydro One’s control centre to dispatch crews to that pinpointed location.

The 38 smart switches will help to limit the number of customers impacted by an outage and help to improve restoration times.

Fitzsimmons said that Muskoka has seen an unusually high number of outages compared to some other areas of the province due to the region’s dense forests, “which is why this investment was critical.”

The local investment is part of a larger $3-billion, five-year investment across the province, which Fitzsimmons added was approved by the Ontario Energy Board as part of the company’s regular planning process.

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