Ontario Power Generation pledges to become Net-Zero by 2040

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OPG hydro overhaul to help fight climate change, boost economy

During Waterpower Week 2021, we focus on the intersectional aspects of policy, operations, markets and innovation development at utilities leading change by example.

As Ontario’s largest power generator and clean technology innovator, OPG is well positioned to set and reach ambitious goals that catalyze “efficient, economy-wide decarbonization and economic renewal, while at the same time protecting the environment” according to Nicolle Butcher, Senior Vice President, Renewable Generation & Energy Markets.

Butcher remarked, “In addition, OPG will be a leading energy innovation company, advancing clean technologies and solutions to help the markets where we operate achieve net–zero carbon economies by 2050.”

Net-zero carbon company by 2040, net-zero carbon economy by 2050 | image credit OPG ontario power generation

The following initiatives exemplify the utility’s multidisciplinary objectives in addition to its R&D as documented in the company’s Climate Change Plan:

Biodiversity

The biodiversity program involves collaboration and planning with various environmental groups and organizations that work closely with OPG to meet climate change targets. Hired by the utility, these groups assist with tree-planting, environmental restoration of wetlands and grasslands, and ecosystem protection.

Hydroelectric Refurbishment

Hydro has always been a major source of Ontario’s energy supply. Hydroelectricity can be ramped up and down relatively quickly; this flexibility contributes to power system reliability.

Several hydro facilities are over 100 years old and approaching end-of-life. OPG is committed to reinvesting in its hydroelectric fleet to sustain and, where possible, grow generation from this clean, renewable power source in the years and decades ahead. Overhauls will help improve performance and increase capacity.

Alison Bradley, OPG Director of Asset and Project Management, anticipates an “average of eight hydro unit overhauls each year over the next two decades for a total of about 176 units -- that’s 74% of all units, representing 6,550 MW of generating capacity -- enough to power more than 5 million homes. Some overhauls have already started in certain regions.”

The anticipated $1 billion (Canadian) turbine–generator overhaul program will create job opportunities for Canadians in the following areas:

  • Construction trades
  • Engineering
  • Machining
  • Manufacturing
  • Project Management
  • Quality Control

Most generating stations are located near small communities and thus, support local businesses in those areas. Indigenous communities will benefit in terms of partnerships, apprenticeships, and other work opportunities.

Understanding that all its facilities are situated on the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples in Ontario, OPG is committed to developing respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous communities. “In the past 15 years, OPG is proud to have partnered with a number Indigenous communities to build new renewable hydro and solar generation facilities. The partnerships not only provide Ontario with clean and renewable sources of power, but also provide our partner communities with a long-term revenue source. These partnerships didn’t happen overnight and were the result of many years of reconciliation work with the communities to rebuild our relationships on the basis of trust and mutual respect,” explained Butcher.

Hydro Redevelopment

OPG is completing hydro redevelopment projects at existing hydro stations over the next 4 years:

  • Beck GS – G1 and G2 conversion – add 125 MW of clean hydropower
  • Calabogie GS – add 11 MW of clean hydropower
  • Ranney Falls GS – add 10 MW of clean hydro capacity and new internal sluice capacity to respond to water management issues

Redevelopments are expected to increase capacity, improve efficiency, and extend the operating life of the stations. OPG is also looking to deploy a systematic approach for extending the life of existing hydroelectric assets and redevelop at least two additional hydroelectric generating stations by 2025.

Hydro Forecasting

In addition to planned capital improvements, Ontario Power Generation is looking to increase operational efficiency by developing a new advanced forecasting and decision support system. This system will improve information available for water management and will allow OPG to minimize spill, optimizing hydroelectricity generation.

Hydro Portfolio Growth

A provincially-owned electric power producer in the province of Ontario in Canada, Ontario Power Generation owns 66 hydroelectric stations, 2 nuclear stations, 4 natural gas-fired stations, 2 thermal stations, and 1 solar facility.

In addition, OPG wholly or jointly owns and operates 86 hydroelectric generating stations in the U.S. through wholly-owned subsidiaries known as Eagle Creek Renewable Energy. The subsidiaries also have minority shareholdings in 14 hydroelectric and two solar facilities in the States.

The company continues to look to grow this portfolio and increase hydropower generation at its U.S. facilities as well. OPG will support the United States’ transition to a cleaner energy mix, further contributing toward carbon reductions.

Leica RTC360 3D Laser Scanner captures 2 million points per second. photo credit OPG ontario power generation Innovation

When asked to describe some of its biggest “wins” in hydro innovation, Butcher elaborated on the shift away from paper–based systems and the digital transformation known as the “Connected Workforce.” A variety of devices – from smart phones and tablets to 360-degree cameras, 3D scans, and Hololens and Realwear pilots – integrate information via a common shareable platform. An overall data strategy will increase connectivity to legacy systems. 

In addition, OPG has enhanced its analytics capability to predict and find insights into its operating data. The utility is “completing the development of a centralized Monitoring & Diagnostics Centre that will be monitoring the reliability of over 1,000 hydro equipment assets,” recovering time from inefficient routine maintenance schedule to a predictive prevention model.

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