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  1. Power distributor is expanding on an already $193-million upgrade in the region
  2. Cannabis industry was among those advocating for increased electricity supplies
  3. Region of southwestern Ontario is already home to a vast greenhouse industry

The “tomato capital of Canada” will soon be getting enough new electricity to power a city the size of Ottawa, Hydro One announced Thursday, with much of that juice going towards growing cannabis.

Ontario’s largest electricity distributor said the new transmission line from Chatham to Leamington, near the province’s southwestern corner not far from Windsor, will be in addition to the nearly $200-million that has already been invested in the region to build three new transmission stations, one of which is already complete. The additional power will come online in stages, Hydro One spokesperson Jay Armitage explained, eventually adding 1,000 megawatts to the available supply in the region, roughly equivalent to Ottawa’s total demand.

The project “is directly related to the greenhouse growers, obviously a number of which are in the cannabis industry,” Ms. Armitage said. “My understanding is it is about 20 per cent cannabis and 80 per cent vegetables, we are seeing the demand from both but obviously the cannabis industry is having an impact.”

Greenhouse-grown vegetables have been a mainstay of the Leamington economy for decades – hence the “tomato capital of Canada” moniker on the town’s welcome sign – but cannabis has dominated new production in the region over the past few years. Aphria Inc. is headquartered there and other major producers such as Tilray, Cronos and Canopy Rivers-backed PharmHouse have substantial operations there, in addition to dozens of smaller licensed cultivation facilities in the area.

Leamington also hosted the inaugural WE Cann industry conference in November, 2018, and multiple cannabis job fairs have already been held in the city of 28,000. As more greenhouses have plugged into the grid, Ms. Armitage said Hydro One started working with local industry representatives to assess their future needs.

“The industry has been clear, nobody is mincing their words. They are here, they are growing, they need our help and we are here to help and are working with them on this,” she said. “They have been advocating for this power and our role has been to listen and to help them advocate.”

The price “will be disclosed once it is established,” Ms. Armitage said, noting the project must first go through the development phase. That includes a preliminary engineering design, an environmental assessment and consultations with local communities and Indigenous groups to establish an exact route. Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has requested the project be fully completed and operational by early 2026.

“We will be doing everything we can to move as quickly as possible,” Ms. Armitage said, “because we recognize the need.”

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