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The Globe and Mail

Upgrading aging Toronto Hydro infrastructure to cost customers $3 a month

Toronto Hydro vault inspector Ron Noro makes his way up from a vault onder Gerrard Street containing a rusted-out transformer in a pool of oil that leaked out from the device Jan. 13, 2011.

tim fraser The Globe and Mail

The Ontario Energy Board has approved most of a $750-million spending plan to improve Toronto's aging hydro equipment.

The two-year development plan, which Toronto Hydro says is needed to prevent blackouts, will increase hydro bills in the city by about $3 a month.

The accepted proposal comes more than a year after Toronto Hydro unsuccessfully proposed a three-year $1.5-billion plan that would have cost customers an additional $5 per month.

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A major part of the spending plan is a $184-million transformer station on Bremner Boulevard that will back up the existing one in the downtown core.

Toronto Hydro vice-president Blair Peberdy says it will also increase reliability, security of supply and facilitate new load growth.

Construction on the station – the first transformer station to be built in downtown Toronto in 50 years – is to start immediately and is expected to be completed in 2014.

"We are pleased with the decision," Peberdy said Wednesday. "It affirms the need to invest in updating our aging infrastructure."

"The electric grid was built in the 50s, 60s and 70s," Peberdy noted. "It's over 50 years old. It's time to replace it."

Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance led the opposition to construction of the Bremner transformer station.

"There is a much lower cost option to keep the lights on in downtown Toronto and that's energy conservation and efficiency," Gibbons said.

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To reduce the need for electricity, condos and office towers in downtown Toronto should be built to be more energy efficient, he said.

Other significant parts of the proposal include $172.3-million to update and replace underground cables, transformers and vaults, and $108-million to replace old poles and other equipment.

"These projects are now non-discretionary," Peberdy said.

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