Renewable energy advocates want to stop new South Nepean power transmission line

Councillors in south Ottawa support a plan to build a $50-million transmission line to that part of the city, but renewable energy advocates say it will hamper efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Power line to South Nepean on city's environment committee agenda

A new high-power transmission line to south Nepean is before the City of Ottawa's environment committee on Tuesday. Proponents say the power is needed, while opponents question the lack of consultation and if its cost could be better spent elsewhere. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Sparks are expected to fly at a City of Ottawa meeting today in a debate over a new power transmission line to serve South Nepean.

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the crown corporation responsible for overseeing the electricity needs of the province, has proposed South Nepean needs more electricity — and it needs it fast.

The IESO has suggested a new high voltage transmission line is required by 2022 or the city would risk a "less reliable" supply, according to a recent report to its local advisory committee.

The regulator is proposing a new 230-kilovolt electricity transmission line and transformer station to serve new communities in the southern parts of Barrhaven, from Strandherd Drive toward Barnsdale Road and west toward Highway 416.

$75M well-spent?

Because of the urgency, the IESO told its local advisory committee in January it's likely too late to hold public consultations before the line is approved.

Bill Eggertson, who sits on that local advisory committee, said he thinks it's short-sighted not to consult whether there are alternatives to the new transmission line.

He said he questions whether the estimated $75 million could be better invested in promoting aggressive energy conservation methods by builders in the new communities as well as more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar energy.

Eggertson also said the IESO local advisory committee has not heard where a proposed transmission line would travel, nor where a transformer station would end up. 

Big picture on city agenda

Those opposed to the plan hope to raise concerns before the city's environment committee on Tuesday as it discusses a motion calling for the city to adopt new more aggressive goals in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

City councillor David Chernushenko, who chairs the committee, will be proposing a motion to reduce greenhouse gas emission goals for the city by 80 per cent of 2012 levels by 2050, which is in line with provincial goals.  

He said he would like to hear the argument why a new transmission line is needed before taking a position on the issue. 

The reality is we need that transmission line.- Mayor Jim Watson

However, the mayor and at least two Ottawa city councillors support the addition of a transmission line.

Mayor Jim Watson said he's interested in hearing the debate, however "the reality is we need the transmission line."

Watson also said since the elimination of coal-powered electricity, the provincial power grid is as low as it has ever been in terms of emitting greenhouse gas emissions.  

"We're a growing community so we need to supply the south end of the city with power so they don't have these brownouts and blackouts as the community grows," he said.

"I think the idea that renewable energy can supply the new communities is wishful thinking."

'You can't just stop growth'

The councillor for Rideau-Goulbourn also said a reliance on renewable energy sources is just not realistic.

"There's a big difference between hopes and realities," said Scott Moffatt, who also sits on the IESO local advisory committee.

There's a big difference between hopes and realities.- Coun. Scott Moffatt

He said there are a lot of people who support a goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions for the city, but "you can't just stop the growth."

"We have growth coming, we've forecasted that growth, we've planned for it and you need to have the supply for it," he said. 

IESO has also suggested Ottawa will also soon need another 100 MW energy supply in the longer term, in addition to the line for South Nepean.