Power utilities grapple with latest climate threat: catastrophic winds
Saturday’s storm toppled transmission towers and left thousands in the dark
Alistair Steele · CBC News · Posted: May 25, 2022 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: May 25
Toward the end of a virtual news conference Monday afternoon, Hydro Ottawa’s Bryce Conrad made two things clear: the power utility couldn’t have anticipated the destructive power of Saturday’s storm, and it’s unsure how to guard against such violent weather in the future.
“We don’t really know what the hell hit us,” the plain-spoken president and CEO said. “But whatever it was, it took down composite poles that are 65 feet tall.”
Alexandra Mallett, an associate professor at Carleton University’s school of public policy, agrees there are no simple solutions.
“We need a more resilient and nimble system,” said Mallett, whose focus is sustainable energy policy. “We need a more sophisticated grid.”
Mallett believes the days of “pushing electrons” through high-voltage wires to local distribution systems are numbered.
She believes a better system would allow homeowners to generate and store their own electricity, giving them the ability to feed it back to the grid.
That could help establish more self-sufficient “micro-grids” that are less susceptible to widespread power outages, said Mallett, who was still without power at her home in Glabar Park on Tuesday.
She also advocates for improved “demand-side management,” which would help Hydro Ottawa avoid the peaks and troughs typical of energy consumption patterns in a big city.
“Hydro Ottawa needs to take a step back and say OK, if these events are happening more often — and the reality is they are — then they need to get ahead of the game and get moving on this now,” Mallett said.