On April 15, 2014, more than 120,000 customers in west Toronto were blacked out when a Toronto Hydro distribution line under construction on Union Street, near St. Clair and Old Weston Rd., shorted out a Hydro One high-voltage line. Toronto Hydro’s overhead rebuild of the Union St. distribution line — the cause of the blackout — was part of the “aging infrastructure renewal” program championed by CEO Anthony Haines and approved by the Ontario Energy Board. In the hands of these leaders, some of the “smart grid” and “infrastructure renewal” ratepayers have been funding amounts to vandalism.
The utility never misses an opportunity to complain that one-third of its electricity distribution assets are past their expected useful lives and that ratepayers must contribute more to fund replacement of aging infrastructure. As previously noted in this series, capital spending managed to keep the lights on in 2004 with $85 million and $113 million in 2005. Spending has been ramping up dramatically with the approval of the Ontario Energy Board. In 2013, capital spending increased by a factor of more than 4 time over the 2004 rate, to $450.3 million. Toronto Hydro’s capital spending frenzy has happened as sales have declined. The sales pitch for the spending increase has been that it will improve reliability. The Ontario Energy Board is so enthusiastic for the plan that in its EB-2012-0064 decision it exempted Toronto Hydro from the normal rules designed to control capital spending applied to the rest of the province’s regulated power distributors.
At Tony’s Hydro, executive compensation is in part indexed to capital spending. CEO Anthony Haines, who has been swearing false oaths about his pretend university degree in testimony before regulators in Ontario and BC for over 20 years, last year was paid $959K before accounting for his pension gains.
The day after the blackout, Mike Penstone, vice-president of planning for Hydro One was quoted by City TV accurately explaining that “Minimum clearance between the distribution line and the transmission line was encroached upon and that prompted a short circuit.”
City TV went on to note that the outage began around 9 p.m. and spanned as far north as Highway 401, south to the lakeshore and from Yonge Street west to Mississauga. Sections of North York were also without power.
Here are some photos documenting aspects of the “infrastructure renewal” program on Union Street. All these photos were taken in April and May 2014.
A couple of items to look for in the photo series: Notice that several of the replacement cedar poles for the “infrastructure renewal” project were installed in the middle of the sidewalk. The manufacturing date of most of the existing concrete poles was 1996, although a couple are from 1994 as shown here. Although not documented in this photo series, it appears that the poles were installed in 1998 or 1999, making the line approximately 15-16 years old. The overhead lines, insulators, and pole-mounted transformers appear to be in mint condition, consistent with their young age. Note that StressCrete of Burlington, the manufacturer for most of the poles used in the original line installed on Union Street in the late 1990, guarantees its poles in typical applications for 75 years. StressCrete has poles still in service from the 1960’s. Notice in the second last photo of the series that the replacement line is located on taller poles, closer to Hydro One’s transmission line. The last photo shows flashover location. Immediately after the flashover event, it appears that Toronto Hydro relocated the insulator and conductor lower on the pole shown here and cut off the top of the cedar pole.
The replacement decision, design, approval, installation, and installation inspection of Toronto Hydro’s Union St. overhead rebuild all appear to be contrary to the public interest.
If the media were as diligent as you have been this blatant mismanagement would have been exposed years ago. Between the councillors sitting on the Board and the bureaucrats at the Ontario Energy Board they have let Haines get away with everything that has driven up delivery rates since he was hired. Incredible that he is rewarded for wasting Toronto’s ratepayers money! Keep up the good work.
I penned an article several months ago that demonstrates how the two aforementioned bodies have allowed Haines to rule the roost! It is really “Tony’s” hydro! My article is here: http://ep.probeinternational.org/2014/01/15/parker-gallant-toronto-hydro-creative-accounting-baffles-toronto-city-council-and-the-oeb-2/
And how many more of these kinds of activities are taking place at other Ontario distribution companies?
Thanks for your Probe article Parker!
Toronto Hydro = A+ Kangaroo and Crook Organization
Give it another year or two talks behind closed doors are in the works to sell the entire Company in the very near future perhaps right after the city 2014 elections are out of the way ; )
Toronto Hydro should of been sold a long time ago when there was hundreds of International $$$ 20 years ago. At the time the city would of got easy 5 to 7 Billion in total sale of this off the rails operation 🙁
Selling the entire dam thing is the only way at this time to turn this Toronto Hydro around into normal and future correct planning electrical distribution company.
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