All charged up! City’s energy grid has loads of extra juice: London Hydro

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Hey London, don’t worry. Plug in, recharge, we got plenty of juice.

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Hey London, don’t worry. Plug in, recharge – we’ve got plenty of juice.

The city has an ambitious target of adding 47,000 new homes. More electric vehicles will land in garages and driveways. And there’s the chance energy-using manufacturers will locate here to supply the new Volkswagen EV battery plant. So will the city and region’s electricity grid be able to handle demand?

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No sweat, says Vinay Sharma, London Hydro’s chief executive.

“We’re hearing from customers: ‘Is there power available?’ And the answer is yes, we have enough capacity,” Sharma said.

In fact, London has 200 megawatts of capacity in the system, enough to power the city for 20 years, and more is coming online, he said. That’s enough power for 40,000 homes even if each one had a charger in its garage for an electric vehicle.

In addition, some potential suppliers to the Volkswagen EV battery plant now under construction in St. Thomas, scheduled to open in 2027, are considering London. One plant may use anywhere from four to six megawatts of power, he said.

Six megawatts is also the power required for the Tesla dealership city council approved for Wonderland Road at the southeast corner of Bradley Avenue.

“We approved that dealership and I’m confident we have capacity,” said Ward 9 Coun. Anna Hopkins, whose ward is adjacent to the dealership.  “I think we’ve done a good job. It speaks to the work of London Hydro and the oversight of the city.”

She’s attended Association of Municipalities of Ontario conferences and heard some communities have limited residential development because they don’t have energy capacity. 

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London Hydro recently hosted an electric vehicle event at which drivers were invited to test drive different models. Hydro officials heard would-be buyers’ concern over whether there would be ample supply for their electric rides, Sharma said.

30-second tour of an electric Posche Taycan GTS
Brad Knight gets a 30-second tour of an electric Porsche from Brad McGonigle of Porsche Centre London at an electric vehicle open house hosted by London Hydro and city hall on May 8, 2024. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

London wants to build 47,000 homes by 2031. And the London Home Builders’ Association questioned London Hydro at a city hall debate about whether that target can be supported by the energy grid. It’s an “ongoing concern, said association head Jared Zaifman.

“We’re trying to raise the flag, he said. “This could have a major impact on construction, on the grid. We’re trying to ensure we’re on the same page.”

In a letter to city politicians, Zaifman said builders want “to ensure we are properly planning for London to have the necessary energy capacity now and into the future, for all our existing homes and all those that need to be built.”

Concern was sparked by city hall strategies that would create more demand on the electrical grid, including:

  • Setting a goal to have at least half the kilometres travelled on London’s roads come from zero-emission vehicles by 2030. It is now 0.5 per cent.
  • Reducing or phasing out fossil fuel as the primary source of heat in all new buildings.
  • Creating greater intensification by, as of 2030, having 45 per cent of all new residential development built within the built-area boundary.

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But in addition to the 200 megawatts surplus available in the city, London Hydro is working with Hydro One to add more capacity at transformer stations, meaning the city may be able to tap into an additional 300 MW capacity, stated a letter to politicians from a London Hydro vice-president, Jac Vanderbaan.

“These steps should provide capacity until 2050,” Vanderbaan wrote in response to Zaifman’s concerns. “London Hydro has been proactively planning to provide electric energy and capacity to meet the growing needs of our city.”

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