Request for improved Hydro crisis response

Councillor Rawlson King has asked Hydro Ottawa to propose several solutions so extended power outages do not negatively impact the City at scale again.

Councillor Rawlson King today introduced a motion, seconded by Councillor Brockington, asking the CEO of Hydro Ottawa to provide an action plan to improve communication with the community during prolonged power outages, including neighbourhood-specific information.

It also asks for the plan to examine vulnerabilities in the local power grid and for city staff to consider merging Hydro Ottawa crisis communications with city-run systems.

The intent of the following motion, introduced at Council, is to improve the experience of residents and hydro ratepayers by asking Hydro Ottawa how future power outages of extended period will be addressed and asking for grid modernization so that citizens are more aware of when power outages are likely to be resolved:

WHEREAS the severe
derecho storm (equivalent to a category EF2 tornado with winds of up to 190 km/h) that the City of Ottawa experienced on May 21, 2022 extensively damaged the electricity infrastructure of overhead wires serving the City, particularly in areas with dense tree canopy, causing a period of many days of power outage for much of the City; and

WHEREAS throughout this prolonged power outage, the primary electricity provider within the City, Hydro Ottawa, is commended for working tirelessly and courageously to restore power with all of the resources it could muster, doing what some have characterized as one year’s worth of work in six days; and

WHEREAS during the power restoration efforts, Hydro Ottawa was repeatedly unable to effectively communicate with its clients to provide timely, accurate and reliable information about where and when power outages would be resolved, particularly on a City ward- or neighbourhood-specific basis in the most affected areas; and

WHEREAS the residents of the City of Ottawa wish to be assured that similar difficulties in communicating and in providing information will not occur again should there ever be a similar power outage crisis experienced within this City.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Mayor Watson write to the CEO of Hydro Ottawa requesting that Council and the residents of Ottawa be informed of the details of an action plan to:

  1. improve the ability to effectively communicate within the community during a crisis such as this prolonged power outage by providing, timely, accurate and reliable, Ward and neighbourhood-specific information about what, where, and when power outages are being addressed and are expected to be resolved, and be more transparent about the decision criteria in establishing priorities for restorative action;

  2. explore with City staff the possibility of integrating Hydro Ottawa crisis communications with communication systems operated by the City of Ottawa for similar purposes, or Hydro Ottawa using the City’s communication systems during such crises

  3. accelerate the modernization of the Smart Grid, including enabling predictive tools to provide more accurate and reliable estimations of when area-specific power outages are likely to be resolved

  4. identify and understand the vulnerabilities and needs for infrastructure improvements to enhance the resiliency of the local power grid, and to provide a timeline for these capital investments

  5. improve the logistics planning for contingencies such as this crisis, to muster the necessary resources more quickly and efficiently to undertake power restoration efforts with greater efficacy and timeliness.

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