A city-wide Smart Grid for Sault Ste. Marie

City Council has unanimously supported the Sault Ste. Marie Smart Grid proposal approved by the Board of Directors of PUC Inc. This was an important step for a project that will help our community upgrade its electrical infrastructure, be more innovative and encourage economic growth and diversity.

I wanted to use a blog post to break down the project for those who may have missed Monday night’s meeting.

The Smart Grid concept has been discussed both by Council and the PUC for a number of years. As a PUC board member since 2015, I can confirm that the time and effort it took us to get to this point was important. It is time and effort that was required to ensure the appropriate due diligence was completed and the entire project thoroughly assessed.  This is a big infrastructure spend and we needed to spend the time and make the effort to ensure it was a sound and beneficial project. We have done that.

The project will result in a grid that is ready to meet new and growing demands for reliable and improved power quality. Recent media articles offer a summary of how a Smart Grid functions. To provide you with an example: the smart grid optimizes voltage for the purpose of minimizing the customer’s energy consumption; leading to lower bills. In addition to the improved efficiency the self-healing feature of the smart grid will see a reduction in the frequency and duration of power outages. Other benefits also include; a reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions, enhanced cyber-security, and economic growth.

As a result of receiving Council’s approval, the PUC will move forward with this project and efforts to secure funding from the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. The PUC and the board are looking for a commitment of around $14 million in federal and provincial support for the construction of the Smart Grid. The project will not move ahead if we do not receive the necessary funding because if we do not receive the funding, the cost of the project will exceed the efficiencies in the project. Therefore, project would not be bill neutral. It was critical to both the PUC board of directors and city council that the project is bill neutral.

As this project moves forward, there is also a plan to construct a Centre of Energy Excellence for Northern Environments (CENEX) in our downtown. Infrastructure Energy (IE), the company the PUC is working with on this project, intends to establish a corporate presence in Sault Ste. Marie, and the plan is for CENEX to be that presence for IE and other partner companies.

A city-wide Smart Grid would provide electricity cost benefits to residents and business, job creation for our local economy, benefits to the environment (reduction in carbon dioxide emissions) and growth in our downtown core. This project is a great project for Sault Ste. Marie, and I was proud to cast the shareholder’s vote on behalf of council. I want to recognize my fellow PUC board members, the PUC management and staff and reiterate my commitment to helping move this project forward.