June is National Electricity Month!

Across the country, the electricity industry is opening our doors and putting out the welcome mat. Throughout June, we’re celebrating National Electricity Month – an opportunity to learn more about the electricity system, and acknowledge the indispensable role it plays in our lives.

That’s a theme that will likely be repeated nation-wide during National Electricity Month.  From coast-to-coast, power generation, transmission and distribution must meet the challenges of building to meet the growing demand for electricity, upgrading aging infrastructure, and producing electricity in environmentally-sustainable ways. National Electricity Month will give the public an opportunity to study these challenges up close.

Take Hydro Ottawa’s Chaudière facilities, for example, which include run-of-the-river hydroelectric generating stations.  Generating Station Number 4 was first built in 1900 – and it still continues to produce approximately 61,000 MWh of renewable energy per year[1] for the city.

In New Brunswick, Point Lepreau will be offering public tours.  Commissioned in 1983, the 635 MW unit, was the first CANDU-6 to begin commercial operation[2].   On an average day, this facility is the source of electricity for more than one-third of New Brunswick’s in-province energy requirements[3].  It recently underwent refurbishment, and during National Electricity Month, the public will be able to visit the plant and meet with industry experts.

In Estevan, Saskatchewan, visitors to SaskPower’s Shand coal-fired power station will have an opportunity to examine an innovative response to environmental sustainability from the 1990s.  The greenhouse built next to the power station helps offset the environmental impact of generating and distributing electricity over a vast territory. The utility grows and distributes seedlings free of charge to schools, communities and individuals for conservation and wildlife habitat projects. During your visit, be sure to make inquiries about how your organization can obtain seedlings.[4]

National Electricity Month lets us showcase the new state-of-the-art projects now underway to address Canada’s growing demand for electricity: from the Lower Churchill Falls in Newfoundland and Labrador, to new projects in Manitoba, to Site C in Northeast British Columbia, to the new tunnel to unlock more of the hydro-electric potential of Niagara Falls.

During National Electricity Month, we invite everyone to think about the value of electricity to our lives – and the price we are willing to pay for it.  Of course, how much we spend depends on personal circumstance, but many apartment dwellers spend less than $3 a day, and the average bill for a typical home ranges between $3 and $6 a day.  According to Statistics Canada, electricity costs a dollar or two more a day than, say, a cell phone, natural gas for heat, or water and sewer charges.  It costs many dollars less than what we pay daily for shelter and food.  We hope that Canadians will take a moment to consider how the value of electricity stacks up to the value of the other goods or services a household buys.

And by taking the time to visit the facilities that generate the electricity we use, Canadians will be able to understand where the money they spend on electricity goes – the immense, intricate and complex system that is there for us every time we turn on a switch.

I invite everyone to join us in marking National Electricity Month.  Take your family to explore a facility near you.

Sandra Schwartz is the Vice President of Policy Advocacy at the Canadian Electricity Association.