'This is a dream': Residents welcome Metrolinx decision to cancel gas plant in Mount Dennis

Mount Dennis residents are rejoicing, after learning that Metrolinx and the provincial government have cancelled plans for a gas-powered backup facility in their neighbourhood.

Residents concerned about potential pollution pleased with new battery-powered system

Rick Ciccarelli (left) and Mike Mattos, both executive members of the Mount Dennis Community Association, say they were thrilled to learn that the gas-powered backup system in Mount Dennis has been cancelled. (CBC)

Mount Dennis residents are rejoicing, after learning that Metrolinx and the provincial government have cancelled plans for a gas-powered backup facility in their neighbourhood.

The gas plant was supposed to provide backup power to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is currently under construction.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the province was partnering with Toronto Hydro to build a more "environmentally sustainable" battery-powered energy storage system instead.

"This is a dream. This is a 'pinch me' moment, really," said Rick Ciccarelli, an executive member of the Mount Dennis Community Association.

Ciccarelli was one of the residents who fought against the gas-fired power plant since learning about it in late 2015. Locals worried it would produce emissions and contribute to poor air quality in the neighbourhood.

"We made sure [government] understood that the community did not want this. We wanted something better," said Ciccarelli.

New system 'essentially batteries'

After hearing concerns from the community through local Liberal MPP Laura Albanese  his government realized "there had to be a better way," Del Duca said.

"This community wanted a different option, wanted a greener option. We went back to the drawing table and we've come back with an environmentally sustainable solution."

Steven Del Duca, Ontario Minister of Transportation, made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday at the Eglinton Crosstown construction site in Mount Dennis. (CBC)

The minister said the new system will decrease emissions, reduce costs and increase the line's reliability.

He said the new battery-powered system will be capable of providing electricity to the LRT for up to four hours during an outage.

"This is a win-win solution for this community and Ontario as a whole," said Del Duca.

The new system is "essentially batteries, with no emissions and no noise," said Chris Tyrell, executive vice-president and chief customer care and conservation officer for Toronto Hydro.

He said the system will generate and store energy during low-cost times, like at night, and use that energy during the day.

The new facility will be constructed in the same location as the proposed gas plant: the future site of the LRT maintenance and storage facility, near Ray Avenue and Weston Road.

Procurement still underway

Tyrell said he can't say how much the new system will cost, because he doesn't want to compromise the procurement process.

He said, however, that the new system will be less expensive than the previous plan.

Chris Tyrell of Toronto Hydro said the new system is 'essentially batteries, with no emissions and no noise.' (CBC)

Del Duca said procurement for the battery-powered system is expected to occur later in 2017.

The proposed gas-powered system was supposed to be constructed by the Crosslinx Transit Solutions consortium, which is delivering the Eglinton Crosstown project.

The Ontario government says the Crosstown LRT will be finished by 2021. The 19-kilometre system will connect Mount Dennis in the west with Kennedy Station in the east.

Minister Steven Del Duca made the announcement with Laura Albanese, Liberal MPP for York South-Weston, Judy Pfeifer of Metrolinx, and Chris Tyrell of Toronto Hydro. (CBC)

With files from Linda Ward