By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction News staff writer
Hydro One Inc. is moving forward with plans to build a new Ontario grid control centre in the City of Orillia, about 125 km north of Toronto, on Lake Couchiching. This new, state-of-the-art facility is expected to serve as one of the company’s technology hubs and will deliver electricity to communities across the province.
“Hydro One is proud to be proceeding with this innovative new facility in the near future,” said Darlene Bradley, acting Chief Operating Officer, Hydro One.
“It will be home to our highly skilled employees who ensure electricity is moving safely across the province to large industrial customers, local electricity utilities and Hydro One’s 1.4 million residential and business customers.”
Bradley made the announcement at a press conference at Orillia’s waterfront on Monday. Construction is expected to begin this year and the facility could open in 2021.
“We are committed to this investment of approximately $150 million in Orillia, which is expected to bring long-term economic value to the city and its local businesses.”
Bradley estimated the economic impact at over $400 million.
“This innovative, state-of-the-art facility will be Hydro One’s key facility in distributing and transmitting power across the province of Ontario, providing safe and reliable power to power the communities of Ontario,” she said.
Orillia was selected for improved accessibility, cost considerations and minimal impact on employees currently working at the existing grid control centre in Barrie. The company anticipates moving approximately 150 to 250 high-quality jobs to this facility.
Mayor Steve Clarke says negotiations with Hydro One started about four years ago, when the facility inquired about purchasing Orillia Power. That sale is expected to be finalized later this year.
“We are hopeful the Ontario Energy Board approves that transaction later this year … and look forward to welcoming Orillia Power and their customers to the Hydro One family,” said Bradley.
“Once that transaction is completed, we look forward to announcing future investments in the community.”
The $150 million investment in Orillia is one of the most significant in the city’s history. It’s the latest economic development boost for the Sunshine City that has also welcomed Georgian College and Lakehead University campuses and the Ontario Provincial Police Regional Headquarters.
Hydro One’s new primary Ontario grid control centre located in Orillia puts Orillia on the map as a technology hub amongst small urban centres, Mayor Clarke concluded.
“I am pleased to see Hydro One building its new Ontario grid control centre in Orillia. This modern and accessible building demonstrates an important investment in our city and Ontario at large,” said Jill Dunlop, Member of Provincial Parliament for Simcoe North.
Once the new Ontario grid control centre is completed, the existing facility in Barrie will operate as the back-up control centre. Hydro One anticipates construction will begin later this year. This new building has previously been referred to as the Integrated System Operating Centre (ISOC).
Hydro One Inc. is a fully owned subsidiary of Hydro One Limited, Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution provider with almost 1.4 million customers, $25.5 billion in assets and 2018 annual revenues of over $6.1 billion.
In 2018, Hydro One invested almost $1.6 billion in its 30,000 circuit kilometres of high-voltage transmission and 123,000 circuit kilometres of primary distribution networks and approximately $1.3 billion into the economy by buying goods and services in Ontario.
Orillia is home to about 31,000 residents in the heart of Ontario’s Lake Country on the shores of Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe.