Bluewater Power considers Central Lambton upgrade today

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The head of Bluewater Power says if it agrees to help pay for an upgrade a transformer serving Central Lambton, it will likely increase power rates.

Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and Bluewater Power CEO Janice McMichael Dennis recently met with top officials at Hydro One about the ongoing power outages in Central Lambton. Since 2012 there have been 126 power interruptions which can be traced back to the aging Wanstead Transformer near Wyoming.

Hydro One had recognized the problem but said the upgrades at Wanstead wouldn’t take place until 2019.

That outraged local politicians and lead to a petition being circulated garnering 1,000 signatures. Bailey also contacted former MPP Sandra Pupatello – who now heads Hydro One’s board – about the issue. That led the meeting.

Hydro One explained they will be replacing aging line circuits which are to blame for much of the problems starting this year. But they’re also looking at expanding the Wanstead station to a 220 kV station.

And they’re looking for Bluewater Power to help foot the bill to the tune of between $1 million.

“The total investment when they do all of this will be over $30 million,” said Bailey recently. “It’s a big commitment.”

McMichael-Dennis says it is also a big commitment for Bluewater Power. Hydro One has never asked local power companies – often their biggest users – to help pay for upgrades.

Bluewater Power is looking at exactly what the upgrade would cost local users and how contributing to it would affect the company’s bottom line. “We want to know what it buys the customers,” says McMichael-Dennis. That information is being presented to the power company’s board today (Thursday) for a decision.

Contributing to the project is “not an insignificant cost” and McMichael-Dennis says it will likely impact hydro rates. “My guess would be we’re talking a couple of dollars a customer a year,” she says. “At the end of the day, it will end up collected in rates and we have to defend to our customers why this is a proven expenditure we have to collect in the rates.”

Oil Springs is one of the communities hardest hit by the outages. During a storm in September 2014, over 50 homes were flooded because of an outage. Mayor Ian Veen who also sits on Bluewater Power’s board is pleased to see Hydro One finally moving to improve power.  He calls it “positive” adding people complaining about the service by signing a petition circulated by former mayor Owen Byers moved the company forward.

Veen also likes the idea of upgrading the Wanstead station. “If it brings more power to the area it will bring more business,” he says. “I think Petrolia has a problem bringing power to places such as Waterville.”