Thunder Bay

Ontario changes regulations on who pays to upgrade power lines

Changes approved by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) could make upgrades to power lines across the province cheaper for industries locating in far-flung areas of Ontario.
Major industry that requires more power than is available in far flung locations of Ontario, will no longer have to pay for the complete upgrade of a power line. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Changes approved by the Ontario Energy Board could make upgrades to power lines across the province cheaper for industries setting up shop in far-flung parts of the province.

The OEB recently overhauled the rules on who pays for the upgrades to power lines. Previously, if industry required a line to be upgraded, it would bear the full cost of the upgrade. Now, a company only has to pay a portion of the upgrade.

Iain Angus, the co-chair of the energy task force with Common Voice Northwest, said one example is an upgrade needed on the power line to Greenstone.

If a new gold mine required an additional $25 million in upgrades to the line while the line itself needed $100 million in upgrades or work, under the old system, the company would be on the hook for the total $125 million cost.

Now, the company would only be responsible for its portion of the upgrade, or would have to pay $25 million into the project.

"It's how the system was built in the first place," Angus said.

"Every ratepayer in Ontario, up until the time of the previous Conservative government dismantled Ontario Hydro, the costs were shared throughout," he continued. "It's the socialization of the cost of infrastructure, just like our highways are done today, and so forth."
Iain Angus is the co-chair of the energy task force with Common Voice Northwest.

Angus said while the mine in Greenstone is one example, other mines across the northwest are slated to come online in the next decade.

"For them to come onstream they need electricity," he said. "We need it throughout the northwest, because unlike the Ring of Fire which is located in one corner of the region, all of the mines are spread throughout and they will need power to open." 

Some companies, such as Greenstone Gold, have said the previous cost to upgrade the entire power line from Nipigon to Greenstone was cost prohibitive, with the mine at one point suggesting it would build its own small natural-gas power plant to supplement its electricity.

However, the new plan is not without hiccups.

Angus said it is still up in the air as to who determines if the line itself needs complete upgrading, which would impact if a company was able to go ahead with a power increase to a specific area, or not.