Laying the Groundwork of Greening Ontario’s Electricity Grid — A Distribution Company’s Perspective
Presenter: Raed Abdullah of Hydro Ottawa

February 24, 2015

See the poster

See the slides

The information and opinion presented may not have been endorsed by or reflect the opinion of Hydro Ottawa (or its employees),  those of IEEE or its members, or those of anyone else except the presenter – Raed Abdullah, P.Eng., SMIEEE. If you disagree with or are dismayed with what is written below, take it up with the presenter and with the authors of this write-up.

About the Presenter

Raed Abdullah, a graduate of the University of Ottawa’s electrical engineering program, has over 25 years of experience in the renewable energy, energy management and utility sphere. As the Strategic Planning Engineer on the Operations, Asset Planning team at Hydro Ottawa, his responsibilities for the past eight years include: undertaking the generation portfolio, performing interconnection studies, advising on smart grid technologies and electrified transportation. He is an active member of a number of high-profile working groups that deal with cutting-edge topic areas such as Smart Grid, Distributed Generation, and plug-in EV Readiness.

About the Organization

Hydro Ottawa is quietly the largest green energy-producing LDC in Ontario, through hydropower, waste gas, and solar PV. Approx. 10% of their residential customer base is on the Peaksaver program, and average household electricity use in Ottawa has declined 14% in the last decade. Hydro Ottawa places customer value at the centre of their initiatives, and employ community and organizational partnerships to ensure programs are effective.

The Presentation

Raed began the presentation by discussing the various drivers in the role of utilities, citing political and environmental pressures and regulations as well as technological advancements, financial pressures, and various socialfactors. These are complicated by the variety of stakeholders, such as the load customers, generator customers, transmitter, and City. In 1906, the mantra was to deliver electricity at cost, while incessant shift in expectations has transformed it most recently into a profit-driven industry, although that profit is capped. Peer competition makes for competitive markets and lower costs, and the changing spectrum of management in utilities has steered the sector further away from the risk aversion habits of the past. Research and development is decreasing in Canada though Ontario increasingly has encouraged more Research, development and more so deployment. Utilities have continued to be both observers and participants in the evolving RD&D system with respect to Grid Modernization.


The discussion began with looking at the implication of introducing electric vehicles to the electricity grid. While there is easily capacity for 30,000 EVs in Ottawa (over a million in Ontario), and the grid can currently take level-two chargers, this must be monitored to avoid an overload in areas of concentration. The ideal time to charge electric vehicles is while the grid is overproducing and selling at an overall loss. Also, speculating the complications that come with trying to return power to the grid from the vehicle make vehicle-to-home a more viable idea than vehicle-to-grid.

The idea of EVs as peak load suppliers is complicated by the idea that they are moving targets, and it is unclear of who might be responsible for the cost of developing and implementing the necessary technology and infrastructure. Should utilities take a more prominent role in promoting EVs? The regulator typically pressures utilities to focus on the distribution system mandate primarily (their core business), although distribution companies’ responsibilities may be less clear with the administration of the Green Energy Act.

The crux for successful “Smart Grid” is a strong data analytic and communications infrastructure as the base. The problem is that this costs a lot of money and standalone does not produce the benefits; without it the smart grid benefits are not as many and not robust or scalable.

The key is that an LDC needs to be far enough ahead that it does not become the problem or get into regulatory cross-hairs.

Précis completed by Kevin Force and Erin Crawley, Masters Candidates in Sustainable Energy- Policy