As Ontario marks the 10th anniversary of the largest blackout in North American history, the province finds itself in much better shape on both the supply of electricity and with a cleaner energy system thanks to the phase out of coal and more output from Bruce Power nuclear.
“Bruce Power has doubled its output in the last decade, creating jobs and proving to be a safe and reliable provider of clean and affordable electricity, especially during times of high demand,” said Duncan Hawthorne, President and CEO. “We were there for Ontarians when they needed us most, during the blackout 10 years ago, and we’ve been there every day since, making investments to be a key part of the province’s transformed supply mix.”
At 4:11 p.m. on Aug. 14, 2003, a series of power surges over a 12-second period triggered a cascade of shutdowns at more than 100 generating plants throughout eight U.S. states and Ontario. The result on that hot, muggy afternoon was the biggest blackout in North American history, when 61,800 megawatts of power were lost to over 50 million people.
Bruce Power was able to keep its units running and ready to help bring power back to the province once the grid was ready to receive it. Former Premier Ernie Eves travelled to Bruce Power and visited the Bruce B control room to thank staff for helping bring Ontario out of the dark.
“Nobody (worked) harder than you people have and you did an excellent job,” Eves said to Bruce Power staff. “I want you to know that we understand that and appreciate what you’ve done.”
Bruce Power’s eight-unit site, a key component of the province’s supply mix, achieved its full potential in 2012 by generating 6,300 MW of electricity, which made its way to Ontarians through the fully serviced Bruce-Milton transmission line, which was completed by Hydro One last year. Through a multi-year revitalization program, Bruce Power has brought enough new energy online to replace 70 per cent of the province’s coal-fired electricity on an annual basis.
Ten years ago, coal-fired generation accounted for almost a third of Ontario’s electricity supply. Last year, coal supplied only three per cent. During that same period, Bruce Power doubled its number of operating units from four to eight, and filled the coal gap with reliable, low-cost, clean nuclear energy. It’s no coincidence the number of smog days in the GTA has plummeted from 45 in 2005 to 12 in 2011, and sulphur emissions are down by 93 per cent during that time.
Since it was formed in 2001, Bruce Power has made a massive investment in the province’s infrastructure through $7 billion of private funds into public-owned assets. This investment in the energy future of the province is the largest in a decade, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs during a difficult economic period.
While the blackout was ultimately traced back to inadequate tree trimming and a fragile power grid, it happened against the backdrop of an Ontario electricity system that was chronically short of supply. In 2002 and 2003, there were 16 warnings from the electricity market operator to cut back on power usage or face the prospect of rolling blackouts. Thankfully, those instances have been few and far between over the past decade and Bruce Power, the world’s largest operating nuclear facility, has played a key role in ensuring the lights come on when you flick the switch. At the same time, our 4,000 dedicated professionals are helping to keep the air clean with emissions-free nuclear.
About Bruce Power
Bruce Power operates the world’s largest operating nuclear generating facility and is the source of roughly 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity. The company’s site in Tiverton, Ontario is home to eight CANDU reactors, each one capable of generating enough low-cost, reliable, safe and clean electricity to meet the annual needs of a city the size of Hamilton. Formed in 2001, Bruce Power is an all-Canadian partnership among TransCanada, Cameco, Borealis Infrastructure Management (a division of the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System) as well as the Power Workers’ Union and Society of Energy Professionals. A majority of Bruce Power’s employees are also owners in the business.
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