Ontario’s biggest hydro dams to get $1B life extension

Ontario says it will spend $1 billion to extend the life of the biggest hydroelectric dams in the province.

The project involves refurbishing the Sir Adam Beck I and II generating stations along the Niagara River, which between them account for nine per cent of all electricity produced in Ontario each year.

Energy Minister Todd Smith announced the plan at the Sir Adam Beck site Tuesday morning. CBC Toronto was given details of the announcement in advance. 

“If we want to keep producing clean electricity at this station, then we have to invest in its future,” Smith said.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is contracting GE Vernova for the work. GE Vernova is the name of a newly created energy company spun off from the multinational GE Corp. 

The project will see nearly all of the two plants’ existing generating units replaced with new equipment such as turbines. The work is to begin in 2025 and is expected to stretch over 15 years, to minimize the number of units are that out of production at any one time. 

The refurbishment will extend the life of about 1,700 megawatts of hydro supply, enough to power about 1.7 million homes, the province says. 

The province’s Independent Electricity Systems Operator forecasts that demand for electricity in Ontario will jump 59 per cent by 2050. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Tuesday’s announcement is just the latest in Ontario’s plans for major refurbishments and expansions of electricity generating facilities, including what could become the biggest-ever expansion of nuclear power production in Canada. 

  • The province has announced plans to nearly double production at the Bruce Power nuclear generating station, and to build four new small modular reactors at OPG’s Darlington plant. 
  • OPG wants to refurbish four units at the Pickering nuclear generating station.
  • Several expansions of gas-fired power plants are in the works, despite criticism that this will boost carbon emissions from Ontario’s electricity system.

The province’s Independent Electricity Systems Operator forecasts that demand for electricity in Ontario will jump 59 per cent by 2050, driven both by population growth and the expected reduction in fossil fuel use for powering industry and vehicles. 


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