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Leamington, Kingsville to see spike in greenhouse electricity demand, study finds

There's expected to be a massive surge in electricity demand for the greenhouse sector in Leamington and Kingsville over the next seven years.

Vegetable and fruit production are the largest portion of that growth, followed by cannabis

In both Leamington and Kingsville, the greenhouse industry is the largest sector when it comes to employment. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

There's expected to be a massive surge in electricity demand for the greenhouse sector in Leamington and Kingsville over the next seven years.

A new report by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) predicts greenhouse electricity needs will increase by more than 200 per cent in those municipalities between 2018 and 2026. Vegetable and fruit production are the largest portion of that growth, followed by cannabis "as growers ramp up their operations."

Entities such as Hydro One have been "responding to not only to the needs that they're identifying now, but catching up to the pressures that we've had being underserviced for quite some time," said Kingsville's mayor Nelson Santos.

In June, Hydro One announced it will be putting in a new transmission line beteen Chatham and Leamington. The line will operate at 230 kilovolts and support the expansion of the greenhouse industry in southwestern Ontario, adding 400 megawatts of power to the region.

'Weakness in our system'

"The interim blackouts we've been seeing, the flickering of power has been part of the weakness if our system," said Santos, adding there has been a lot more investment in transmission systems.

Hydro One had already approved a $193-million investment to add 600 megawatts to the Leamington area, to build three new transmission stations. These projects, combined with the new line to Chatham, will increase power available to 1,000 megawatts. 

The line is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Finding energy efficiencies 

The IESO report expects a large spike in electricity demand through 2026, so it's suggesting there's "great potential for energy efficiency to help manage increasing electricity demand."

It's pushing the Save on Energy Retrofit program and the Grid Innovation Fund as ways to cost-effectively reduce the electricity demand.

It's long overdue ... Now they're trying to catch up.- Larry Verbeke, Leamington's deputy mayor

"Providing opportunities for energy efficiency and innovation will complement transmission upgrades by making best use of existing infrastructure," said Terry Young, IESO's vice president of policy, engagement, and innovation. "This will help ensure that greenhouses have the reliable and affordable electricity they need to grow."

Leamington deputy mayor Larry Verbeke labels it the "greenhouse boom." In both Leamington and Kingsville, the greenhouse industry is the largest sector when it comes to employment.

"It's long overdue," said Verbeke about adding energy capacity in Essex County. "Now they're trying to catch up."

He adds that although the greenhouse industry is the driving force behind these upgrades, it will also help factories and even homes.

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