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A Look Back Over a Century Plus

  • 17 March 2022
  • Author: Sari Maritzer
  • Number of views: 229
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A Look Back Over a Century Plus

It’s a milestone year for the Electricity Distributors Association. It was 110 years ago, in 1912, that 14 communities came together to form our precursor, the Ontario Municipal Electric Association (OMEA).

The OMEA set out to foster an inter-connected but locally controlled grid in Ontario. In doing so, it helped lay the foundation for the province’s early industrial development and remarkable quality of life, as well as for its current ongoing transformation into a lower-carbon and ever-more electrified society.

OMEA would merge in the 1980s with the Association of Municipal Electric Utilities (a technical group) to form the Municipal Electric Association, which was later restructured into the EDA.

To mark the 110th anniversary, The Distributor presents a timeline of some of the highlights in the history of Ontario’s electricity system.

1881

Waterpower generation begins at the Chaudière Falls in the Ottawa River, which today is the site of Canada’s oldest hydroelectric station still in operation

1885

Among various other electricity-related pioneering achievements for Canada, Ottawa becomes the first city in the world to light all of its streets with electricity

1906

The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario is formed, to deliver power to cities and towns, and as the backbone of a publicly owned distribution system, with Adam Beck as its chairman (he served until his death in 1925 and was knighted for his achievements)

1908

The Commission enters into agreements with 14 municipalities to provide power at cost – there would be similar agreements over time with more than 300 municipalities

1910

The Commission completes a 110,000-volt bulk electric-power transmission line to supply several municipalities in southwest Ontario

1922

What’s now known as the Adam Beck Power Station at Niagara Falls begins operating – today part of a complex of generating stations making up one of the world’s largest sources of hydroelectricity, and a national historic site

Mid-1950s

Through a massive door-to-door Frequency Standardization Program, motors are converted in seven million household appliances in Ontario

1959

OMEA members are now delivering power to more than one million customers

1960

The Ontario Energy Board is founded as an impartial regulator, providing oversight of local distribution companies

1965

OMEA strengthens it organizational structure with the hiring of a full-time secretary-manager and establishment of a permanent office

1968

Canada’s first full-scale nuclear power plant – the Douglas Point Station – goes into commercial operation (on a site adjacent to the current Bruce Station)

1974

Ontario Hydro is formed as a Crown corporation, replacing the Ontario Hydro Commission, and with a mandate to provide energy at cost

1998

The Energy Competition Act confirms municipal ownership of distribution utilities, and requires they be transformed into business corporations

1999

Ontario Hydro becomes five separate entities: OPG, Hydro One, the IESO, the Electrical Safety Authority and the Ontario Electricity Financial Corporation

2003

The Northeast Blackout delivers a powerful reminder of the potential vulnerability of a continentally connected grid, and in Ontario sets the stage for LDC-led conservation efforts

2014

Ontario eliminates coal-based electricity generation

2016

Teresa Sarkesian is appointment as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Distribution Association. Teresa made history as the first woman to lead the association.

2017

In a continuation of a distributor consolidation trend, Alectra Utilities is formed – today it is EDA’s largest municipally owned LDC in Canada, and serves customers across 1,800 square kilometers and 17 communities

2018

At the mid-way point of the provincial Conservation First Framework, Ontario distribution utilities have already achieved more than two-thirds of an aggressive target for energy conservation, and at the lowest cost on record

2020

Distribution utilities step up at the onset of and through the COVID-19 pandemic, administering customer support programs and ensuring reliable power when customers needed it more than ever

 

Today, Ontario’s distribution sector – the vast majority of which is represented by the EDA – encompasses 59 utilities of varying sizes, which collectively serve well over five million customers. With a proud history, they are poised to help lead Ontario into an ever-more connected, efficient and green future.

Sources:  EDA archival materials, Canadian Encyclopedia, Wikipedia, Canadian Electricity Association, SolarShare and various other web sources. Quotations are from “The Politics of Power: Ontario Hydro and Its Government, 1906-1995” by Neil B. Freeman.

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