Current News

Getting Ready for the Ministry of Labour’s Electrical Utilities Initiative, Western Region

January 30, 2017 – In June of last year, The Ministry of Labour and the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) announced the Electrical Utilities Initiative (EUI) a pilot project being developed for approximately 60 Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) and other organizations in the Ministry’s Western region. The utility sector was chosen due to the complex work involved around electrical distribution systems, the recognized high risk hazards of the work, and the need for increased planning and communications with the IHSA.

To ensure CHEC LDCs are prepared for the initiative and continue to meet and exceed the industry safety standards and procedures, Wellington North Power (WNP), a Member LDC of Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC), invited the CHEC Health & Safety Specialist Taylor McHugh to conduct a safety inspection of their field work and to consult on adjustments that would improve their operations’ safety and adherence to their Internal Responsibility System (IRS).

“It’s important to have an external set of eyes assess field operations,” said McHugh, who provides Operational and Health & Safety support for the fifteen CHEC member LDCs. “It can be easy to become complacent within an organization where the operations become habitual with practice and reinforcement. Complacency can often be a contributing cause to accidents in the workplace.  It’s very beneficial to have CHEC act as a second set of eyes to identify any safety hazards or risks and to raise awareness to help reduce the probability of an incident.”

Year one of the pilot project included the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association outreach to ensure the foundations for the IRS are in place. Year two (2017) will involve field visits by the Ministry at workplaces and worksites with the results being communicated back to LDCs. McHugh’s initial visit to a CHEC LDC represents the early stage of preparations within the Association for the field visits  that will be conducted by the Ministry of Labour in the second year of the program.

“Safety is always our primary concern,” said Jim Klujber, COO of WNP who initially invited McHugh to perform the inspections. “Having Taylor come in with a fresh perspective allowed us to acknowledge areas we were doing well, identify areas where improvement could be made and to ensure our operations and procedures are current.”

McHugh utilized a pre-designed check list for the inspection that had been developed from several lists that already existed at three of the CHEC LDCs. With a few added elements, it provided McHugh with a comprehensive list of items that needed to be verified while on site. These included observing work signage and traffic protection, quality tailboard sheets, reviewing the truck log book and inspecting rubber cover ups, among others.

“Proactive field inspections assist utilities with exercising their due diligence and provide them with an opportunity to improve on documenting daily work activities and ensuring safe work procedures,” said McHugh. “This resource is about assisting LDCs in achieving an optimal level of compliance and being pro-active in helping our LDCs get to where they want to be.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


Customer Satisfaction Survey Implementation Saves LDCs Money

January 20, 2017 Brockville ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce that the implementation of the Customer Satisfaction survey for 14 of the CHEC Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) has been awarded to Redhead Media Solutions of Bracebridge, Ontario. The survey is to be implemented in the first quarter of 2017 with each LDC service area surveyed on an individual basis.

“Issuing a Request for Proposals as a group provides cost savings to our member LDCs that they can then transfer to their customers,” said Ken Robertson, CHEC Finance/Regulatory Analyst. “We are continually doing our due diligence to make sure we bring the best price for our members.”

The first Customer Satisfaction surveys, where CHEC LDCs consistently outperformed the National and Provincial averages, were implemented as part of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) Scorecard in 2014. At that time, LDCs chose how their surveys were to be implemented in their service areas.

The survey that will be implemented by Redhead Media in 2017 will be consistent across all the CHEC LDCs. It was developed by the Electricity Distributor’s Association (EDA) and while not yet formally approved by the Ontario Energy Board, represents a consistent approach by CHEC LDCs and other LDCs in the province.

“The Customer Satisfaction survey that is being rolled out in 2017 will provide us with meaningful results that will be comparable to other LDCs across the province.  It will provide us with a true indication of how well the CHEC LDCs are meeting their customer’s expectations in comparison to other Ontario LDCs,” said Robertson.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


CHEC Awards Small Business Lighting Contract

Brockville, ON November 15, 2016 – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the awarding of the contract for the delivery of the Small Business Lighting (SBL) program in our member service areas. Eleven of the CHEC Local Distribution Companines (LDCs) have reduced their program costs and improved the program efficiency by engaging with Burman Energy Consultants Group to administer the Save on Energy Small Business Lighting program. The award of contract was a result of an RFP process run centrally on behalf of the participating LDCs.

“Burman was instrumental in helping many of our LDCs businesses install energy efficient lighting as part of the previous Conservation Framework,” said Bryanna Boyd, CDM Portfolio Specialist with CHEC. “That experience will help our LDCs continue to deliver the resources and support their customers need to maximize their energy savings as well as their incentives.”

As part of the previous framework, Burman Energy participated in 4057 installs of energy efficient lighting throughout the CHEC LDC service areas.  Starting in November, Burman will have a contractor in each participating service area to start assisting customers in implementing their energy saving lighting projects. Part of the strength of the Burman offering is that it provides a complete turnkey solution for LDCs that reduces the cost to implement the program and ensures programs are consistently and professionally administered across all the participating LDCs.

“The group RFP process administered through CHEC means that our LDCs get the best possible price while at the same time accessing the considerable experience and expertise  available in the industry,” said Gord Eamer, CHEC COO. “The resources available through the award of contract to Burman Energy will help LDC business customers reduce their energy and ensure the LDCs meet the energy conservation goals established in the Conservation First Framework.”

In the previous Conservation Framework 2010-2015 the combined energy reduction for the 13 CHEC LDCs that participated was a total of 132.4 GWh or 110.7% of their combined target.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


CHEC receives a Positive Response in First Member Satisfaction Survey

Brockville, ON November 3, 2016 – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the results of its Member Satisfaction Survey that polled LDC staff and management from all portfolios on how the CHEC Association was meeting their needs.

“Implementing a high level satisfaction survey gives us a structured input to measure how well the Association is meeting the needs of our members,” said CHEC COO, Gord Eamer. “By providing a formal feedback mechanism we can better determine areas for improvement.”

The net promoter score indicates how likely someone would be to recommend the organization to a friend or colleague. Staff from all portfolios (Finance & Regulatory, CDM, Operations and CEOs) were polled, with three of the four portfolios scoring between 82-92% for the net promoter score. These three portfolios are in the top 25% of all organizations in this benchmark.

Through another question on the survey, respondents described CHEC as reliable, high quality, useful and unique with no negative descriptors being indicated.

“As our first Member Satisfaction Survey we were looking for a litmus test on how we were performing,” said Eamer. “While positive overall, this relatively simple survey has already provided the CHEC Board of Directors and staff with information on what areas we need to focus on to improve our organization.”

One area is the need to improve communications so that staff at all levels of the member LDCs is aware of the projects and initiatives that are being developed and delivered by the Association.

CHEC plans to complete a second survey in three months with further surveys completed on a semi-annual basis as an on-going indicator of continuous improvement opportunities.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


Collus PowerStream Restores Power after Severe Thunderstorm

Collingwood, ON October 29, 2016 – Local utility thanks customers, staff and the Town’s partner, PowerStream.

See Full Press Release


Achievement Through Collaboration

CHEC Releases its First Annual Report

October 3, 2016 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the release of the CHEC 2015 Annual Report, Achievement Through Collaboration. This is the first annual report to be produced by the CHEC Association and we’re pleased to be able to provide a comprehensive overview of the CHEC organization and all that the Association and our member LDCs have achieved during the past year.

“It is inspiring to see the dedication and commitment our member LDCs have in developing the models and processes that will help our LDCs become more streamlined and more efficient in the delivery of electricity,” said COO Gord Eamer in the report. “Collaboration takes time and a commitment to be successful and our member LDCs have shown repeatedly that they are committed to the process and willing to do the hard work required to make our organization successful.”

Highlights from the report include achievements across all portfolios: Finance & Regulatory, Operations, and Conservation & Demand Management.

  • The culmination of the Rate Application Process with Wasaga Distribution and Wellington North Power filing their applications internally using the developed model. Both utilities estimated their reduction of time and resources at 25 percent less time required for the completion of the application and less reliance on external consultants.
  • Spring and Fall Safety workshops for front line staff to ensure skills across the CHEC organization were up-to-date and relevant through utility specific training and awareness.
  • The development of two separate Assessment Tools through the Operations’ Working Groups: the Non-certified Training Assessment Tool and the Electrical Utilities Safety Rule 132 Formal Risk Assessment Tool.
  • The submission of a combined CDM report by thirteen CHEC LDCs for the original Conservation framework.
  • Extensive support to member LDCS during the transition from the 2010-2014 Conservation Framework to the 2015-2020 Conservation First Framework. Preparations for the new framework included the issuing of group RFPs for conservation program implementation, continuation of the Roving Energy Manager contract, and collaboration to develop and file the required CDM plans.

The CHEC Association is proud of its success as a collaborative association and the 2015 Annual Report, Achievement Through Collaboration, illustrates the on-going value it has delivered to its members and its continued efforts to provide relevant, beneficial tools and resources to its members in the future.

“Through collaboration, our member LDCs continue to achieve the efficiencies and benefits sought by our many stakeholders,” said former Chair of the Board, Ed Houghton in the report. “We have proven that we can implement effective solutions across all areas of our business, leveraging technology and shared knowledge to implement the best possible solutions that are transferable to the individual needs of each LDC. The results of this commitment to excellence can be seen in both our OEB Scorecard results and our Customer Satisfaction survey results of 2015.”

For full report see Annual Report 


Increasing Capacity and Reliability

New technology and equipment at four of Lakefront’s substations upgrades system capacity and reliability.

Cobourg, ON August 16, 2016 – Lakefront Utilities works hard to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity to its 10,000 electricity customers. Its recent system upgrades have been focussed on that objective, with their innovation and flexibility resulting in a significant reduction in the cost of the upgrades and a higher capacity in the system.

“Maintenance of our electrical distribution system, in this instance our substations, is critical for ensuring a reliable, robust electricity supply for our customers,” said Dereck Paul, President at Lakefront. “It doesn’t happen overnight and we have made a concerted effort over several years to reduce the number of outages and ensure a reliable service.”

New Transformer at Brook Street Substation

A substation is the point at which high voltage electricity enters into the Lakefront distribution system with its job being to lower the voltage of the electricity so that it can be safely distributed to homes and businesses. Two substations supply electricity at 27.6kV to the Town of Cobourg at Brook Road and Victoria Street. Substation upgrades were scheduled at Brook Road for 2014, when in May of that year a failure of the transformer required that they move forward the replacement.

“We had a few sleepless nights,” said Scott Wright, Manager of Electric Distribution and Design. “But in the end it was a win-win for us and our customers.”

The replacement of the new Brook Road transformer resulted in a more reliable, consistent supply of electricity throughout the system. The use of second stage cooling fans has also substantially increased the capacity of the Brook Road transformer resulting in better security of supply in the event of an outage at another station.

Upgrades at Victoria Street (Cobourg) Substation

Following the Brook Road replacement the Lakefront crews installed all new breakers at the Victoria street station and replaced the bus bars which required the station be re-engineered and re-designed. Currently they are installing two stage fans so that the Victoria station will have the same increased capacity as the Brook Road station.

“The increased capacity of the two substations allowed us to postpone the building of a new substation. With increased capacity at both stations this allows room for an additional feeder, resulting in extra capacity available now and in the future,” said Wright.

New Transformer at Victoria Street (Village of Colborne) and Upgrades at Durham Street

The existing transformer on Victoria Street in the Village of Colborne, is over 40 years old and in 2016 Lakefront is replacing the transformer. They will also remove the metal clad switchgear and install solid dielectric breakers to ensure the new station has the most up-to-date technology and equipment to provide electricity. The Durham Street station will cover the capacity during the switch over, and once the replacement at Victoria Street is complete, will be upgraded in 2017.

Monitoring the System

One of the benefits of the newly upgraded stations and switches is that they can communicate with the Lakefront Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that monitors the entire distribution system. Information on the status of each substation, breaker, recloser and wholesale meter is relayed back to the central control room so that the crew has a real-time picture of how the system is operating.

“Remote monitoring will give us real-time visibility of the Colborne Distribution System and provide information so we can make decisions to ensure we are operating as efficiently as possible” said Wright.

Safe and reliable electricity is an important resource for an active and thriving community. Through the continual, careful upgrading of its distribution system, Lakefront Utilities provides a solid foundation for the economic and social success of the businesses and residents of Cobourg and the Village of Colborne.

Lakefront Utilities Inc. serves over 10,000 residential and commercial customers across the Town of Cobourg and the Village of Colborne. Lakefront strives to create long-term value for its shareholders at the same time as it provides safe, efficient, and reliable service to its customers at the most reasonable rates possible.

For further information please contact;
Scott Wright
Manager of Electric Distribution and Design
Lakefront Utilities Inc.
207 Division St. Box 577
Cobourg, ON K9A 4L3
905-372-2193


Employment Opportunity

Water Systems Supervisor

An exciting and challenging opportunity is available at Lakefront Utility Services Inc., located in the picturesque Town of Cobourg. Lakefront Utility Services, one of Ontario’s progressive multi-utility companies, that provides electric and water distribution services to approximately 10,000 residential and business customers.

Lakefront Utility Services Inc. (LUSI) is currently searching for a highly motivated, results oriented individual for the position of Water Systems Supervisor. Reporting to the Manager of Water Systems, this position will have operational oversight for the Water Systems operated by LUSI. Playing a leading role in the continued supply of safe drinking water for these communities, he or she will ensure that these systems are operated in accordance with all applicable current drinking water legislation and regulations. With a keen focus on customer service, this position is responsible for continual improvement of processes and procedures, ensuring prompt response to service orders, customer complaints and maintenance work for all of the water systems under LUSI.

For full details, please see the attached position description.

Water Systems Supervisor


Collaborating for Emergency Preparedness

Veracity-CHEC

Sault Ste. Marie, ON, July 18th, 2016

Veracity is excited to announce the addition of Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) to the Veracity Connect Utility Community. The CHEC group represents 15 local distribution companies in the Province of Ontario and was organized to combine resources and competencies to help its member utilities meet the changing environment of the electrical industry. For full press release see Veracity


Supporting a Safe Workplace

Updated Job Planning Folders help Operations staff stay safe and meet regulatory requirements

Brockville, ON July 6, 2016 – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts is pleased to announce the release of its new Job Planning Folders.

“The job planning folder was a project identified by our Member LDCs where sharing resources would be of benefit to CHEC members,” said Taylor McHugh, CHEC Health & Safety Specialist. ”We identified the need to update a number of our LDC’s job planning folders. By facilitating this, we saved costs and time associated with LDC’s updating folders on their own time and developed a standard layout which meets the needs of the LDCs.”

The job planning folders are designed to help work crews identify, assess, control, and document hazardous conditions to maintain a safe, secure workplace. The Electrical Utility Safety Rule 107 requires that a job plan be completed prior to “the performance of all tasks on or in proximity to energized electrical apparatus, requiring the establishment of work protection or involving critical hazards such as falling, hoisting, confined space, hazardous substance, etc.”

The new folder brings the elements of existing folders, including the original Electrical Utility Safety Association (EUSA) folder, into a comprehensive, accessible resource that has delivered significant benefits to the CHEC LDCs.

• An up-to-date legislative and regulatory reference developed with minimal resources from the individual LDCs.
• Increased functionality and longevity of a folder that is designed specifically for outdoor use and a changing workplace.
• A standard format that helps manage costs through group purchasing.
• A better understanding of when to use the job planning folder versus a tailboard sheet.

“The new folders have helped our crews to continue to work safely through better assessment and documentation of potential hazards at the worksite,” said Brian Elliott, Manager of Operations at Lakeland Power. “With many CHEC LDCs needing to update their folders, doing it collaboratively through CHEC created a common template that could be used throughout our organizations that fits with today’s mutual assistance environment as well as reducing our costs.”

Through the input of its members, the CHEC group undertook a thorough revision of the planning folder. Specific features include:
• Updated Tailboard Talk sheet.
• Updated Traffic Protection Plan that includes popular traffic layouts.
• Two pockets for document storage.
• Updated information on current hazards and conditions including call back numbers.
• A visual aid in the hazards identification section
• An emergency plan section that can adjust to changing staff positions and retirements.

“We updated numerous areas of the folder to make sure it was functional and relevant to the needs of the workers,” said McHugh. “The combined input from all the members will allow us to put together the best possible folder that can be used by our member LDCs.”

The updated folders are currently being evaluated by member LDCs through a pilot program, with further adjustments to be made based on feedback prior to the release of the final folder.

ABOUT CHEC
CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


Achieving Excellence in Reliability

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro improves reliability of its electricity supply through focused outage management

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON June 28, 2016 A reliable electricity supply is an essential part of a thriving community. Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro (NOTL) takes its responsibility of maintaining that supply seriously and has been actively engaged in an outage management program that has seen the number of outages and the duration of those outages consistently reduced over the past several years.

“Outages can be caused by various reasons such as high winds, fallen tree branches, ice accumulation, lightning and equipment failure,” said Tim Curtis, President, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro. “Our goal is to make our system as robust and flexible as possible so that our customers have power during even the most adverse events.”

Multiple initiatives are required to keep the complex electrical distribution system able to respond to changing customer demands and the changing environmental stressors. To ensure the robustness of the NOTL system, the Operations staff has focused on a number of initiatives.

  • Leveraging Technology. Smart switches have been installed on the long feeder lines that supply the Old Town area. If a line is down due to any of the reasons mentioned above, the switches automatically re-direct the electricity to a second feeder to keep businesses and residents supplied with electricity. These switches also help sectionalize an area of outage so a minimum number of customers are affected. A plan has been approved to install more of these smart switches in other parts of the service territory.

 To ensure power is restored as quickly as possible, NOTL Hydro has installed automatic reclosers at its connection points with the transmission grid. These restore power once a momentary fault, such as a lightning or tree branch making contact with a line, has been cleared.

  • Infrastructure Renewal. An aggressive capital program has been implemented for several years to upgrade the distribution system to a higher voltage at the same time as older poles are replaced. The end result is a reduction in electricity losses and a stronger infrastructure to withstand exposure to the elements. In addition, a long term program to replace the aging overhead pole lines with underground cables in the Old Town will maintain the ambiance of the historic Old Town as well as increase reliability in this high treed area. The long roll out is due to the significantly higher cost of installing underground infrastructure.
  • On-going Tree Trimming Program. Fallen branches are one of the top causes of outages. The NOTL service area is divided into three sections with tree trimming done in one section per year. The three year cycle ensures adequate clearances from the electrical lines while maintaining the health of the trees. Ongoing trimming is done as required in areas identified by regular inspections.
  • An Outage Management System. A new Outage Management System automatically alerts line crews when an outage occurs through the use of smart meter data. In some instances, crews have been onsite and fixed the fault before customers have been aware there is a problem. The outage data populates a map for the Customer Service staff to help them respond to customer inquiries about the estimated time for power restoration.
  • Outage Updates. For outages larger than 50 customers, notifications are sent out on Twitter, Facebook and the NOTL website to inform customers an outage has occurred. On-going updates are provided on the NOTL twitter feed as details of the outage and the expected time of power restoration are received.

“We take our communications very seriously, and actively post on social media during outages,” said Hassan Syed, VP of Operations at NOTL.  “We encourage our customers to inform us if their power goes out so we can ensure power is restored to the entire system as soon as possible.”

  • Dedicated Maintenance Program. NOTL has a strong maintenance program of its substations, transformers and switchgear to limit outages caused by equipment failure. The recent refurbishment of the NOTL transformer station with a new 50 MVA transformer ensures the local utility has the most up-to-date technology and equipment to distribute electricity.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro has an impressive track record of outage reduction, both in the number of outages and their duration. Going forward, NOTL will continue to support the economic and social success of the community through the maintenance of a safe and reliable electrical distribution system.

“We can’t control natural events but we can mitigate their effects by continuously updating and maintaining our system and making it smarter,” said Curtis. “Along with the lowest electricity distribution rates in Niagara and an office open to customers, outage management is one of the ways in which we provide the best service possible to our customers.”

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes safe, reliable electricity to close to 9,000 customers in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Its mission is to provide efficient delivery of electricity to its customers, maximum value to its shareholder the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and to be one of Ontario’s top performing distribution companies in customer service and reliability. The local utility is a member of Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC), an association of 15 Ontario LDCs that share resources and best practices to provide efficient and cost-effective electricity to their customers.


Gaining Working Capital and Pride through an Internal Lead-Lag study

Wasaga Distribution is the First Ontario LDC to internally complete a lead-lag study and have it approved by the OEB

Wasaga Beach, ON June 13, 2016 – Wasaga Distribution, a local distribution company (LDC) servicing 13,100 customers in the Town of Wasaga Beach, recently completed an internal Lead-Lag study that resulted in the LDC’s Working Capital Allowance (WCA) increasing by 2.2 percent or the equivalent of having access to close to $386,000 of additional working capital.

“The financial implications [of doing the study] were significant enough to warrant taking it on,” said Joanne Tackaberry, Director of Finance at Wasaga Distribution. “There were processes that we had that weren’t reflected by the [Ontario Energy Board’s ] specified number.”

In 2000, the WCA was set by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) at 15 percent of an LDC’s Cost of Power and OM&A expenses. Due to technical and regulatory changes in the industry, the OEB has since reduced this to 7.5 percent through a series of reductions that have resulted in a much lower level of working capital available for LDCs to manage their day to day operations.  Wasaga determined that it would be worthwhile to perform a detailed lead-lag study to determine the difference in the calculated working capital allowance compared to the 7.5 percent set by OEB.

“It was worthwhile to do the study,” said Brandon Weiss, Senior Financial Accountant at Wasaga Distribution and the person who performed the internal study. “It gave us a higher WCA rate and the ability to question our processes and see if they could be improved. It forced us to know our revenue, collections and expenses.”

Wasaga was the first Ontario utility to perform the study internally and have it approved by the OEB. Previously, LDCs had relied on third-party consultants to complete and defend the study due to the complexity of the process.

Part of Wasaga’s ability to complete the lead-lag study internally was due to the support available through Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC), a collaborative association of 15 utilities that share resources and expertise to attain cost efficiencies in the delivery of electricity. As a member of the organization, Wasaga was already involved in the Rate Application Process’ Working Group that is led by Ken Robertson, CHEC Regulatory/Finance Analyst.

“With the support from CHEC and the work that Ken has done, there was an opportunity to do this without being overburdened,” said Weiss. The group provides on-going support to its member LDCs that are filing their Cost of Service applications.

Based on Wasaga’s success, CHEC is currently formalizing a two stage lead-lag process to be made available to CHEC members. The Association hopes to have it completed for September and the start of the next cycle of the Cost of Service applications.

“The first stage will be a study to determine whether it is worthwhile for utilities to spend the time to do a full analysis. The second stage will provide the full analysis if the LDCs decide to go ahead,” said Robertson.

The benefits Wasaga has already achieved include the higher WCA rate and saving the cost of the outside consultant to perform the study.  Beyond that, the staff has a better understanding of their processes, an increased level of expertise that will inform future Cost of Service applications, and above all else, pride at being able to complete the study in-house.

“I’m very proud that we were able to complete this ourselves,” said Tackaberry. “We’re looking forward to developing a formal model with CHEC that will bring the power of this process to the entire membership. This is another example of how collaboration has helped improve cost efficiencies for the entire membership and provide a lower cost of service to our customers.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association of 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


Leveraging Smart Meter Data at Orangeville Hydro

May 19, 2016 Orangeville, ON When Orangeville Hydro implemented their smart meter program their first objective was to provide hourly Time-of-Use data to the provincial database and meet their mandated requirement. Once the installation was successful, they started looking for ways to leverage the data available through the smart meters to provide better service to their customers and improve operating efficiencies.

“We wanted to access the outage data available from individual smart meters to improve our outage response and for our customers to have access to the data that would help them manage their electricity costs,” said Rob Koekkoek, Manager of Operations and Engineering at Orangeville Hydro. “Those functions hadn’t been part of the initial deployment but we knew the functionality was there. We wanted to make the most of our investment.”

Outage Monitoring

To access the outage data, Orangeville worked with Savage Data Systems to implement the functionality in the original Operational Data Storage (ODS) system that had been purchased at the beginning of the smart meter installation.

“The data indicating a power outage can be transmitted to our outage map and pushed to our maintenance crews within less than a minute,” said Koekkoek. “Our crews get an almost immediate notification that there is an outage in the system.”

Due to the speed of the communications, the maintenance crews often know about power outages before their customers do. In a recent wind storm, the Orangeville utility had crews on site and the power restored within thirty minutes and before they received a single customer phone call notifying them of an outage. During the ice storm in March 2016 when crews were dealing with wide spread outages the smart meter data was instrumental in determining the most important problem areas that needed to be fixed before addressing the smaller issues.

“The smart meter data is extremely helpful when dealing with multiple outages,” said Koekkoek. “Especially where you have scattered outages overlapped with larger areas without power.”

Outside of incidents caused by weather, the outage notifications also keeps customers and buildings safe by alerting maintenance crews when a customer has pulled their meter to do their own electrical work (an activity only permitted by someone with the proper electrical certification.) In areas where power quality is consistently outside of the normal voltage range, the data can be used to plan for appropriate mitigation of the problem through capital investments.

Customer Access

The first step in making the data accessible to customers was working with Harris North Star to implement their Customer Connect online portal. Through the portal, that is available through the Orangeville Hydro website, customers can view their individual usage data online, download the data, make charts of their usage, or set up alerts for when their electricity usage gets too high.

“Having individual data usage available to our customers makes them more informed and can help them be more in charge of their energy costs,” said Koekkoek.

Equipment Loading

An additional advantage of the ODS system is the transformer loading data that is available the day following the event. With access to detailed individual transformer loading, Operations is able to determine whether transformers are under or overloaded and make adjustments accordingly. In the event of re-building an area, Operations can determine whether they needed to reduce or increase the number of transformers serving an area.

Collecting smart meter data was a requirement of Orangeville Hydro’s electricity distributor license. Through innovation and identifying opportunities for improved service, they were able to leverage the data in three separate areas and bring benefits to both their Operations team and their customers.

“Leveraging the functionality in the ODS system has been a great value add for our utility,” said Koekkoek. “Since it was built into the original deployment costs there were virtually no additional fees to implement the project.”


 Employment Opportunity

Database Quality Control Analyst

An exciting and challenging opportunity is available at Lakefront Utility Services Inc., located in the picturesque Town of Cobourg. Lakefront Utility Services, one of Ontario’s progressive multi-utility companies, provides electric and water distribution services to approximately 10,000 residential and business customers.

We are currently seeking a highly motivated, results oriented individual for the full time position of Database Quality Control Analyst, responsible for ensuring data integrity and accuracy and enhancing the process of key performance reporting.

For full details, please see the attached position description.

Database Quality Control Analyst


Collaborating for Safety

Line crews of CHEC utilities benefit from the safety training resources of the larger group.

April 15, 2016 Alliston, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the successful completion of its Spring Safety Workshop. Approximately 80 participants representing 12 CHEC utilities attended the two-day event that brought together the expertise from individual utilities and made it available to the larger group.

“We saw an increase in participation this year due to the topics of the workshops. Because it is such a technical group we were able to drill down and provide the very specific technical training that is so important to our line crews and operations staff,” said Taylor McHugh, CHEC Health & Safety Specialist.

The workshop drew on the knowledge of CHEC utility staff to deliver the courses, utilizing the expertise of internal resources as well as creating cost efficiencies. Brian Elliott of Lakeland Power led Underground Electrical Systems and Temporary Grounding & Bonding Techniques, Rob Real of InnPower addressed Rigging and Slinging Hardware and Pole Handling, and Live Line Tool Techniques and High Voltage Rubber Techniques up to 36 kV was led by Jeff Raycraft of Orillia Power.

Prior to the workshop, the CHEC utilities were asked to rank the topics in the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association’s Safe Practice Guide in order of importance for their particular utility. This allowed the workshop to be tailored to offer material and expertise that was exactly relevant to the utility’s situations.

“In an ever changing environment of the Ontario Energy Board, Electrical Safety Authority and other Ministry requirements, CHEC seminars are a great opportunity for sharing knowledge and experiences with other utilities progressing through similar adversities. The seminars provide a venue to efficiently retrain and recertify our highly skilled staff to Ministry requirements,” Rob Koekkoek, Manager of Operations and Engineering, Orangeville Hydro Ltd.

Classes include review of safety requirements and on-site procedures as well as in-class exercises implementing tools developed by the CHEC Operations Working Group including tailboard sheets. An invaluable component of the presentations is the sharing of anecdotes by the attendees on the situations they’ve encountered while working in their service areas.

“These seminars are an important resource for our crew members and the sharing of expertise continues to keep safety as our highest priority. I am impressed with what we have accomplished as a group and these kinds of opportunities [through CHEC] continue to grow by leaps and bounds,” Roy Rogers, Operations Manager, Midland PUC.

CHEC will be hosting a Fall Safety Workshop later this year.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


CHEC LDCs ready for New Conservation First Framework

CHEC LDCs are set to maximize their energy savings in the Conservation First Framework through experience and preparation

March 1, 2016 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce that CHEC utilities are prepared for the rollout of the new Conservation First Framework launching in 2016.

“We knew the importance of being prepared for this transition,” said Bryanna Boyd, CDM Portfolio Specialist at CHEC. “So that our utilities and their customers could start saving energy as soon as the new programs were fully available.”

The Conservation First Framework is administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and designed to reduce electricity consumption by seven billion kilowatt-hours by December 31, 2020. The new framework has given a much bigger role to Ontario LDCs with each utility having a contract with the IESO that specifies their energy conservation goals for the 2016 – 2020 timeframe.

“The biggest benefit [of the new framework] is the stronger focus on customers and the flexibility of the programs. The CHEC utilities will have the ability to customize conservation programs for their customers to make sure they achieve the best possible results,” said Boyd.  Conservation programs are available for residential, commercial and industrial customers.

Part of the preparation for the new framework included the release in November of three RFPs to assist the CHEC LDCs in making the process as easy as possible for their customers and maximizing their conservation results. The three RFPs are for the services related to the Retrofit program, Small Business Lighting Program, and the Home Assistance program; all programs that have been carried over from the previous framework.

“CHEC does the ground work with the RFPs so that the individual utilities don’t have to,” said Boyd. “It’s a cost-effective method for our utilities to deliver the conservation programs to their communities.”

One of the key elements of the new Conservation First Framework is collaboration. CHEC has operated as a collaborative model since its inception and will continue to leverage its collaborative relationship among its LDCs to maximize their conservation efforts and their contribution to the overall program goals.

“CHEC established effective processes for delivering conservation programs during the first framework,” said Boyd. “Moving forward, we have the opportunity to benefit from those processes and further increase our participation levels and energy saving achievements.” The combination of member LDC staff, supported by both the CHEC Roving Energy Manager and CHEC staff, ensure that programs are run effectively and the individual utilities have the resources they need to deliver the conservation programs.

“Our utilities worked hard to achieve their conservation targets,” said CHEC COO Gord Eamer. “With a strong process established, they will continue to work with their customers and communities and provide a valuable contribution to the goals of the new framework.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


 

Measuring Public Safety Cost Effectively   

Using the collaboration that is central to their organization, CHEC achieves cost savings in the implementation of the Public Safety Measure survey

February 17, 2016 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the Public Safety Measure survey is being implemented across its Local Distribution Company (LDC) territories and that they have achieved significant savings through collaborating on the RFP process.

“As a result of conducting the survey as a group, we were able to reduce our costs by approximately $50,000 across all the CHEC utilities,” said Ken Robertson, CHEC Analyst. “The process provides a cost effective process for our utilities while meeting the mandated requirements of the survey.”

The Public Safety Measure is part of the LDC scorecard and was developed by the Electrical Safety Association (ESA), with the assistance of the Ontario Energy Board.  The Public Safety Measure monitors the impact LDCs are having on improving public electrical safety of the Electrical Distribution Network. The three components of the Safety Measure include:

  1. Public Awareness of Electrical Safety
  2. Compliance with Regulation 22/04
  3. Serious Electrical Incident Index.

The Public Safety Measure survey addresses Component A and was developed by the ESA with input from stakeholders, such as the CHEC association, on the survey requirements and the standardized questions. The questions ask the public in the LDC’s service areas on their electrical safety knowledge specific to distribution networks. For example the questions focus on the impact of coming in contact with power lines, how likely they are to call before they dig, and what action to take if a vehicle comes in contact with live wires.

The results of the survey will provide LDCs with an understanding of the level of awareness of electrical safety amongst the residents in their service area along with the need for increased education and awareness efforts.  Each utility will survey a minimum of 400 residents in their respective areas.

CHEC utilities chose to use the services of an outside contractor to ensure that the survey was implemented according to proper research methodology. The final results of the survey are expected in mid- April of 2016 and will provide a public awareness score for each utility territory.

“We’re thrilled to be able to meet this requirement in such a cost effective way,” said CHEC COO Gord Eamer. “The data gathered in the survey will provide LDCs with a better understanding of the public safety challenges and the level of safety awareness within their territories.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.


CHEC Renews Roving Energy Manager Contract after Successful 2011-2014 Conservation Framework

Customers of small LDCs benefit from the support of a Roving Energy Manager and contribute to the success of Ontario’s Conservation Targets.

Brockville, ON January 14, 2016 –  CHEC (Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts) is pleased to announce that the contract for the Roving Energy Manager (REM) has been renewed based on the success of the CHEC LDCs in the 2011-2014 Conservation Framework. By providing support and resources to the customers of small LDCs, Khaled Hamel helped the CHEC utilities meet their conservation targets, helped LDC customers identify and implement energy efficiency measures, and made sure customers received the government incentives that were available for their specific projects.

“The success has been phenomenal,” said Ken Robertson, Financial/Regulatory Analyst for CHEC. “The individual CHEC LDCs couldn’t warrant hiring an energy manager but combined the utilities had enough [electricity] demand to allow for a dedicated Roving Energy Manager. Through that collaboration the utilities were able to maximize their conservation initiatives and effectively contribute to meeting Ontario’s conservation targets.”

The funding for the REM was provided through the Independent Electricity System Operator (then the Ontario Power Authority) as part of the Collaborative Funding program which ensured that the LDCs benefited from the REM support without having to increase rates to their customers. Based on the achievements during the 2011-2014 Conservation Framework, the funding has been renewed to continue the REM contract for the Conservation First Framework that begins in 2016.

Hamel worked closely with the CHEC LDCs to identify companies that would benefit from energy efficiency  measures and supported the local conservation initiatives. During the 2011-2014 framework, he visited 123 different clients and helped hundreds of energy efficiency projects go ahead. Successful customers included hospitals, municipalities, arenas, and industrial and commercial businesses. The energy efficiency measures included lighting retrofits, large co-generation projects, VFDs, A/C, HVAC, motors, pumps, laser machines, and welders among others.

“In addition to the technical services I provide to LDC customers, the most important element of the services is preparing and showing a simple, streamlined business case so the facility or business sees the value and won’t have problems proceeding with energy efficient projects,” said Hamel. “By being available [to customers] they have the confidence and input they need throughout the process.”

The combined savings for the conservation projects across all participating CHEC utilities was a peak demand reduction of 1,800 kW and an electricity consumption reduction of over 10,000 MWh or the equivalent of taking 1,000 houses off of the electricity grid for one year.

Based on their past success and the increased awareness from the first framework, the CHEC utilities look forward to further increasing their contribution to Ontario’s conservation targets in the upcoming Conservation First Framework.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 15 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.