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Achievement Through Collaboration

CHEC Releases the 2016 Annual Report

October 11, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the release of the 2016 Annual Report, Achievement Through Collaboration. It is the second annual report produced by the Association and illustrates the continued commitment to collaboration and the processes and tools that have delivered exceptional value to our members.

“Collaboration and engagement have been promoted as key initiatives within the electrical industry in 2016. As a long-standing collaborative organization CHEC has 16 years of experience in leveraging and maximizing the potential of these powerful processes. Since sharing knowledge and expertise is part of our collaborative process, we have extended that practice to the larger electrical industry through sharing our experience in industry working groups and committees,” said COO Gord Eamer in the report.

Highlights from the report include achievements across all activities within the Association including Industry Input, Sharing Costs, Training Together, Streamlining Processes, and Analysis and Support.

  • Representation on OEB working groups including the Major Event Reporting Working Group that defined a ‘Major Event’ and helped develop amendments to the Electricity Reporting and Record Keeping Requirements regarding System Reliability;
  • Issuing of a group RFP for the delivery of the Customer Satisfaction Survey with an approximate saving of $26,000;
  • The development of the Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Tool to help CHEC members meet the requirements of the Occupational Health & Safety Act;
  • The issuing of RFPs for delivery of the CDM programs for CHEC LDCs to provide critical support for members in the new Conservation First Framework;
  • Shared training across all portfolios in the form of full-day workshops, technical presentations, safety talks, and webex meetings;
  • Participation by CHEC LDCs in the Veracity Asset Management Pilot Program to evaluate the software that provides alerts based on the potential for weather conditions that could adversely affect the electricity distribution network.

The CHEC Association is proud of the many ways it continues to help its members adapt and thrive in the changing electrical distribution industry. The 2016 Annual Report illustrates its continued ability to provide support where it’s needed and bring continued benefits to its members and their shareholders.

“The public issues with electricity rates, the Wynne government’s announcement of the eight percent  reduction on hydro bills, the mandated Customer Satisfaction and Public Safety Awareness Surveys, and the Conservation First Framework are all areas that have required our LDCs to react and adapt to ensure they continue to provide fair, safe electricity service to their customers,” said John Walsh, Chair of the CHEC Board of Directors “The sharing of costs and knowledge within the Association has been invaluable in helping our LDCs streamline their current processes and effectively implement the new requirements.”

For the full report see Annual Report

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its LDCs remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro, Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, InnPower, Lakefront Utilities, Lakeland Power, Midland PUC, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro, Orillia Power, Ottawa River Power, Renfrew Hydro, Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution, Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution, Wellington North Power, and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


Remove Smart Meter Entity Charge from Consumer Bills

By, NOTL Hydro Board – October 3rd 2017

 Service Should be Competitive

October 3, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake – Embedded in the Delivery Charge on every electricity bill is a $0.79 monthly charge called the Smart Meter Entity Charge.  This charge is not kept by the local distributor or transmitter but is sent to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) where it funds the management of a Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R) at a total cost of around $50 million per year.

The MDM/R is a database which contains all smart meter data.  It should be noted that this does not include the address of the meter, the account number or the name on the account so there is limited personal privacy risk.  The IESO is investigating uses for the MDM/R data and has recently increased the scope of the data by adding postal codes and customer rate classes.

Current regulations require the local distribution companies (LDCs) to use the MDM/R as part of the customer billing process.  However, if they were allowed, LDCs could obtain this service at lower cost from alternate service providers.  This would allow for a reduction in rates for all customers.

The Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) Hydro calls for the removal of the Smart Meter Entity Charge from the electricity consumer’s bill and for the removal of the regulatory requirement for LDCs to use the MDM/R.  If there is value in the MDM/R database then the cost should be paid by those who want to use the data.  The cost of the services actually used should be part of the LDCs distribution rates.

“With the current cost of electricity in Ontario we have to look at every cost and evaluate if it is warranted;” said Jim Ryan, Chair of the NOTL Hydro Board, “there are certain luxuries like the MDM/R that we can no longer afford.”

The Board of NOTL Hydro has previously urged the Minister and the Premier to take steps to reduce the high cost of electricity in Ontario and has provided concrete suggestions.

ABOUT NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE HYDRO 

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes power to over 9,000 customers in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are committed to operating as a sustainable high-performance, customer-driven business and to providing the highest standard in safety, service and reliability. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the 100% shareholder of the corporation.


Prescott, ON, September 22, 2017  – OPERATIONS MANAGER

Rideau St Lawrence Utilities (RSL) is a local distribution company located in Prescott in eastern Ontario. RSL services 6 small communities delivering electricity to approximately 6,000 customers.

Due to an upcoming retirement RSL is seeking an energetic and enthused individual to lead the Operations team. This position oversees all maintenance and construction of the distribution system and provides the technical support and expertise to analyze problems and assist the corporation to adapt to new and rapidly changing situations.

Reporting to the President/CEO, you will be responsible for the effective management of the construction, operation, and maintenance of the electrical distribution facilities of the Utility. You will provide direct supervision to the Lines department and assume overall responsibility for the Health and Safety for RSL as it relates to policy development, training and enforcement.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Plans, budgets, organizes, and directs the affairs of the Operations Division
  • Responsible for the development, execution and monitoring of capital and operational budgets and Distribution System Plan with the assistance of finance as required
  • Be responsible for providing input into updating the Distribution System Plan, Asset Management Plan, annual budgeting process and monitoring progress against the budget and plans
  • Manage staff to ensure the Collective Agreement is administered in a fair and reasonable manner
  • Ensures employees are adequately qualified and equipped to complete their duties in a competent and efficient manner through training, staff development, work allocation, and problem resolution
  • Ensure staff adhere to established safety rules, work practices, construction standards, and corporate policies; Conduct and document regular crew visits
  • Verify field installations are built to construction standards as required by the construction verification program
  • Responsible for the procurement and maintenance of all line vehicles, tools and equipment
  • Direct work in accordance with all applicable codes and rules

Qualifications and Skills:

  • College or University education in Engineering or a related field, or equivalent experience at the supervisory/management level in the electric utility industry
  • background experience (could be combination of academic/hands-on) which demonstrates understanding/familiarity with the electric industry, generation connections,  or which exemplifies a viable/desirable transfer of skills and abilities from other industry sectors
  • Ability to communicate effectively and concisely, orally, electronically (email), and in writing
  • Have a proven ability to supervise effectively; Supervisory experience in an electric utility environment is highly desirable
  • Ability to deal with stakeholders in a courteous and tactful manner.
  • Familiar with resource planning, scheduling and crew management to maximize productivity, efficiency and ensure safe work practices and quality workmanship are adhered to
  • Possess an in-depth knowledge of electric utility construction methods, utility protection code, OHSA and EUSA Rule Book, including planning new installations and line design, as well as troubleshooting and repairing system faults
  • A thorough knowledge of all electrical industry regulations and technical specifications including ESA, CSA and CEA, as well as the ability to relate same to subordinates
  • A thorough understanding of ESA Regulation 22/04 with relation to Construction Verification programs would be advantageous
  • Computer literacy and demonstrated proficiency in the use of personal computers and various software applications, such as Outlook, Excel and Word
  • Ability to read and interpret blue prints, technical drawings and specifications
  • Demonstrated proficiency in project management and asset management
  • Valid Driver’s License with an excellent driving record

In addition to a competitive salary, Rideau St. Lawrence  also offers a comprehensive benefit package. Candidates interested in the above position are invited to submit in confidence a cover letter and a detailed resume by October 20, 2017 to:

Rideau St. Lawrence Utilities Inc.

Attention: John Walsh, President/CEO

985 Industrial Avenue, PO Box 699

Prescott, ON K0E 1T0

Email: jwalsh@rslu.ca  

We thank all applicants for their interest; however, only those candidates selected for an interview will be contacted.


Hydro One Customers Acquired in 2000-2001 have Paid over $492 million more than Necessary

Hydro One uses Acquisitions to Subsidize Existing Customer Base; Creates Rate Distortions

September 13, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake – An analysis prepared for the Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro (NOTL Hydro) has determined that customers of 87 local distribution companies (LDCs) acquired by Hydro One Networks Inc. (Hydro One) have paid over $492 million more than if the LDCs had sold to or merged with other local LDCs.  A report on the analysis can be found here.

By harmonizing the distribution rates and the line loss rates of these acquired LDCs with Hydro One’s existing services, Hydro One has effectively subsidized their existing customer base.  This allowed Hydro One to reduce the rate increases they would otherwise have requested.  Despite this subsidy, Hydro One has still had one of the highest rate increases in Ontario with residential rates rising, depending on the rate class, between 39-70% from 2005-2016.  The customers of the acquired LDCs saw rate increases that averaged over 260%.  Customers of municipally owned LDCs had rate increases closer to the rate of inflation of 20% during this period.

Each step in the process of getting to this point was approved by the Ontario Energy Board and there is no indication Hydro One profited unfairly from these rate increases.  However, Hydro One demonstrably structured their actions to achieve this subsidization effect. As a result, you have situations where neighbours or residents of similar municipalities have substantially different hydro rates depending on whether they are served by Hydro One or a municipal LDC.

“It seems nobody is interested in protecting the customer.” said NOTL Hydro Chair Jim Ryan. “The Government, the Ontario Energy Board and Hydro One itself all had opportunities to protect these customers but instead chose to focus on other goals.  This was wrong.”

The Ontario Energy Board has recently deferred providing their approval for Hydro One to acquire the LDC in the City of Orillia while it reviews Hydro One’s recent rate application and the rate increases sought for other recent acquisitions.  The analysis has estimated that, if the same process is followed in setting rates for customers of these new acquisitions, the average rate increase will be 50% and will generate over $25 million in additional revenue.  The Board of NOTL Hydro supports this Ontario Energy Board decision and encourages a full review of Hydro Ones rates and rate increases.

The Board of NOTL Hydro reiterates their call for a truly independent Ontario Energy Board and for breaking up Hydro One between its transmission and distribution business and then into multiple smaller distribution companies to start correcting these rate imbalances.

DOWNLOAD ANALYSIS OF HYDRO ONE ACQUISITIONS

ABOUT NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE HYDRO
Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes power to over 9,000 customers in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are committed to operating as a sustainable high-performance, customer-driven business and to providing the highest standard in safety, service and reliability. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the 100% shareholder of the corporation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Tim Curtis
President
Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc.
905-537-4512
Office Phone – 905-468-4235


iNOTiFY Pilot Program Completed

Ten CHEC LDCs Participate in the Evaluation of the Advanced Weather Warning Software

August 15, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the completion of the iNOTiFY Pilot Project in partnership with Veracity Asset Management Group. The pilot was undertaken to determine the effectiveness of the iNOTiFY system in providing advanced weather data, specifically ice buildup and wind, to allow LDC staff to better prepare for potential outages.

“Participating in this pilot proved the capability of smaller LDCs to investigate new technologies,”  said Gord Eamer, CHEC COO.  “It was a great opportunity to evaluate whether the software would help our LDCs be better prepared for severe weather and improve the effectiveness of their response.”

The pilot took place between December 2016 and April 2017 with ten CHEC LDCs taking part. The features provided during the five month pilot included:

  • Ratings of ice storms and other weather conditions
  • Two day notice based on forecast parameters
  • Critical preparedness information based on ‘triggers’ that LDCs can use for advance decision making such as wind, freezing rain, and the SPIA (Sperry-Piltz Ice Accumulation) Index.

The iNOTiFY software was developed by CommPower and offered in Ontario by Veracity Asset Management Group. The goal of the technology is to improve the advanced weather warning capabilities, including predictive damage assessments, and to assist LDCs in determining the appropriate course of action. During the pilot, each LDC was able to set their own triggers based on their individual service areas and the potential for damage to their distribution systems during severe weather events.

“The data and notifications that we received directly correlated with what we were seeing in the field, said Larry Irwin , VP Operations for Collus PowerStream. “The predictions were accurate and provided additional information over traditional weather reports. It was a great pilot to be involved in.”

During the pilot evaluation it was noted that the system could be particularly useful for LDCs with large service areas. The notifications, delivered by SMS, could facilitate the movement of crews and equipment prior to the storm’s arrival. The ability to accurately predict the severity of the incoming weather and the impact on the utility system can provide an improved understanding of what to expect from the weather event.

“Both CHEC and Veracity benefited from working together on the pilot,” said Graham Nelson of Veracity Asset Management Group. “The feedback we received was invaluable for fine tuning our implementation and the evaluation confirmed that iNOTiFY can provide value to Ontario’s LDCs.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its LDCs remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro, Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, InnPower, Lakefront Utilities, Lakeland Power, Midland PUC, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro, Orillia Power, Ottawa River Power, Renfrew Hydro, Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution, Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution, Wellington North Power, and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.

ABOUT VERACITY ASSET MANAGEMENT GROUP

Veracity Asset Management Group specializes in Critical Asset Management, specifically within power generation, transmission and distribution. Veracity is a leader in helping utilities integrate a cradle to grave strategy for critical assets which encompasses data capture, emergency preparedness & planning, critical spares and disposition management.


Cost Effective Mobile Engagement for Small to Medium Sized Energy Utility Providers

August 1, 2017 – Screaming Power and the CHEC (Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts) Group would like to announce their partnership in creating a mobile solution for Utility customer engagement that moves towards embracing technological change. The solution has been built with Screaming Power’s existing mobile technology “Scream Utility”, which represents 3+ years of Research and Development.

Additional work and advisement in 2017 along with Government funding has allowed the parties to rapidly develop a solution for its electric Utility Cooperative and other Utility Providers that want to work together.  This Mobile Utility Application will empower Energy Utilities by utilizing innovation and technology that allows for management of energy use and incentivizes energy conservation to help the Utility Providers and customers save time and money.

“Working with this Utility Group and specifically Lakefront Utilities as the lead utility, has been a great experience. In a matter of a few months, we have been able to create a solution that automates data processes, innovates customer engagement and delivers information electronically right to the customer, so it can be reused for the Internet of Things.  It could not have been done without the expertise of the parties involved.” – Gary Michor, CEO of Screaming Power

Gord Eamer COO of CHEC, a Utility cooperative group of 17 Utilities, understands how Mobile Applications are changing the way people do things.  “I now realize we can use this technology and watch it evolve as new opportunities and technologies advance. As the mobile landscape progresses, the parties will continue to grow and use their strengths to be a part of the changing energy industry.” – Gord Eamer COO of CHEC

Utilities can provide their customer base with a user-friendly mobile experience that supports digitized information delivery, presentment, conservation, management and education while removing manual or paper-based processes. This mobile technology solution is a useful tool needed to support ‘Smart’ communities.

Screaming Power and the CHEC Group are excited about the Mobile Utility Management System’s progress. Screaming Power has offered the CHEC User Group of Utilities special pricing to reduce the burden on the community Utilities who care about their customers.

About Screaming Power.

Screaming Power is revolutionizing customer engagement by providing a mobile platform that connects the energy user, allowing for effective and secure two-way communications to educate, change behaviour and encourage sustainability. Our extensible Intellectual Property provides a low-cost, digital infrastructure with a self-sustaining Eco-System. Our Scream Utility & Scream Enterprise mobile solution focuses on reducing ‘cost-to-service’ for while driving user satisfaction and innovation.  See www.screamingpower.ca for more information.

About Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts Inc.

CHEC is a not for profit association that is committed to its members, assisting them to service their customers and communities. They are premier LDC Cooperative in the Province of Ontario and look to exceed their members’ expectations through the sharing of services, opportunities, knowledge and resources. See http://checenergy.ca/ for more information.


Lower Ontario’s Electric Costs – Government of Ontario should Break-up Hydro One

Latest Rate Application Clear Indicator Current approach Not Working

July 3, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake – The Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro (NOTL Hydro) urges the Provincial Government to break-up Hydro One with the goal of reducing distribution costs for Hydro One’s 1.4 million customers.  Hydro One should be split between its transmission and distribution business and the distribution business should be subsequently broken up into regional local distribution companies (LDCs).

“Given the proposed distribution rate increases, it is clear the current model is not working for Hydro One customers.” stated NOTL Hydro Chair Jim Ryan, “Something has to change.”

Hydro One Networks Inc. recently filed its distribution rate application in which it is looking for a 23% increase in distribution rates (based on a typical residential customer) over the next five years.  This rate increase would be more than double the expected rate of inflation and would be in addition to the already substantial rate increases Hydro One has implemented over the past ten years (see chart).

 

The proposal to break up Hydro One is supported by the following:

  • Breaking up Hydro One between transmission and distribution was originally supported by the Premiers Advisory Council on Government Assets (the Ed Clark Council). It was only when the goal became to sell Hydro One that their recommendation changed.
  • Transmission costs have been consistently better managed by Hydro One than distribution costs and transmission is a natural provincial-wide activity.
  • The issue is not that Hydro One’s rates are higher than municipally owned LDCs. That is to be expected given the nature of the respective service territories.  The issue is that their rates are rising so much faster.  That is controllable and is an issue of management and governance.
  • Hydro One has purchased close to 100 Ontario LDCs over the past 18 years. The resulting operational savings should have resulted in lower Hydro One rates.  Instead, many of these former LDC customers have seen rates more than double.
  • The experience of municipally owned LDCs, and their lower rate increases, shows that regionally focused LDCs, with a governance that balances profitability and rates, is better for customers.

An analysis would be required to determine the number of regional Hydro One LDCs and their locations.  The determining factors would be the structure of the distribution system and natural boundaries rather than political boundaries.

The recent sale of Hydro One shares would not be an obstacle to this course of action.  A share swap would allow the private investors to own almost all of Hydro One Transmission (this should be less of an issue as is more easily regulated) while the Government would own all of Hydro One Distribution allowing it to make the necessary changes.

The Board of NOTL Hydro has previously urged the Minister and the Premier to take steps to reduce the high cost of electricity in Ontario and has provided concrete suggestions.

ABOUT NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE HYDRO

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes power to over 9,000 customers in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are committed to operating as a sustainable high-performance, customer-driven business and to providing the highest standard in safety, service and reliability. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the 100% shareholder of the corporation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Tim Curtis

President

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc.

905-537-4512

Office Phone – 905-468-4235


Moving Forward on Public Safety

The development of a customizable Public Safety Plan for CHEC LDCs

June 12, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to announce the completion of the inventory of Public Safety measures for the CHEC LDCs and the development of a draft Public Safety Plan.

“Public Safety is an area where we can benefit by pooling our resources and provide valuable support to the CHEC LDCs to assist in improving their public safety plans,” said Taylor McHugh, CHEC Health & Safety Specialist. “The plans will capture current activities, help deliver effective, targeted education initiatives within LDC service areas and improve electrical safety awareness in their local communities.”

The first step was to complete an inventory of the Public Safety activities currently taking place within the CHEC LDCs. Traditionally, Public Safety activities have been undertaken across multiple portfolios including but not limited to Operations and Finance & Regulatory.  The inventory was a valuable exercise to determine which activities were taking place within the different portfolios.

The exercise provides LDCs with an informed look at their current public safety activities and a reference point as they focus their public safety plan. It will be a valuable tool to track and evaluate activities as they move forward.

Once the inventory was complete, development of a draft Public Safety Plan began. This plan can be used by each CHEC LDC to customize a full Public Safety plan for their LDC. The draft plan will cover the goals and objectives of the activities, the target audiences, and potential implementation methods that can be used to deliver the programs.

The draft Plan will also help to inform the activities of the CHEC Public Safety Working Group that is to be formed later in 2017. The Working Group will determine the available public safety education options, the relevance to CHEC LDCs, and suitable implementation methods for each initiative.

“The plan will assist the Working Group in setting the direction for its support by building on the activities already being done,” said McHugh. “By effectively choosing the support we provide to our members, we’ll be able to provide a resource for LDCs to provide effective public safety education.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its LDCs remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro, Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, Innpower, Lakefront Utilities, Lakeland Power, Midland PUC, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro, Orillia Power, Ottawa River Power, Renfrew Hydro, Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution, Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution, Wellington North Power, and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


Five Critical Elements of Collaboration

May 17, 2017

The CHEC association has been operating within a collaborative model since its inception in 2000. During that time they have developed and fine-tuned their collaborative process, learning along the way what works and what doesn’t when it comes to bringing people and organizations together to share experiences and resources. When considering the evolution that has brought them to their current robust and effective model, they found five areas that are critical for successful and effective collaboration: Trust, Time, Communication, Participation and Flexibility.

Trust

There can be no effective collaboration within a group without trust. A big part of collaboration is being able to openly share ideas and to establish a common ground among members before moving forward with a solution. Within the CHEC organization, trust has been developed through the relationships amongst their members and the process of getting to know each other through continued, beneficial interactions. New members are often surprised by the level of openness and sharing that occurs and are quick to recognize the benefits of the best practices that are developed and the strength of being part of this integrated association of Local Distribution Companies (LDCs).

Time

Collaboration takes time. CHEC draws on expertise and experience from a wide variety of individuals and utilities and it takes time to reach a consensus on what the best practices are and how to best implement them within their organizations. The CHEC members recognize the value of this process and are committed to it based on the on-going success and support they receive.

Time also comes into play in that not all LDCs face the same challenges at the same time. Some may be working through their rate application while others will be dealing with issues specific to their local communities. Developing a best practice that is available and can be implemented whenever member utilities require it allows access to the CHEC resource at the time that fits their individual needs.

Communication

Communication is critical throughout all levels of the collaborative process. Members within working groups need to be able to communicate clearly their ideas and concerns, and once a model or best practice has been developed its important to communicate the results to the larger group.

The organization continually prioritizes the issues that the association is working towards. With 17 members, it’s necessary to ensure that each member has provided input on the decision, or if not, that there interests are represented by someone that is participating in the group.

Since the CHEC LDCs are distributed throughout Ontario, technology plays an important role in maintaining effective communications. The LDCs meet periodically to foster relationships face-to-face and also use WebEx and online resources to stay in touch between larger meetings and to work on practices as they are being developed. Collaborative problem solving needs to leverage a combination of technology and communication to work effectively.

Participation

The levels of participation in a collaborative model are dynamic in terms of contributors and who steps up to participate on different initiatives. LDCs within the organization are involved at different times and on varying issues depending on the current activities at the individual utilities and the individual’s areas of expertise. The CHEC partners are cognizant of these changing contribution levels and the collaborative model’s strength is in the cross section of LDCs that are participating.

Complementing the resources within the CHEC LDCs is the availability of the CHEC staff to provide support when required. The CHEC staff is available to complete the ground work on broader issues and bring it back to the larger group to consider without drawing resources away from the individual LDCs. The presence of CHEC staff that can provide resources to the LDCs is relatively unique to the CHEC model given that many collaborative models operate on volunteer participation alone.  The staff element allows for deeper, broader and continuous support.

Flexibility

The collaborative process is always a moving target that requires different tools depending on the project. A project may use LDC expertise to set the base level of the initiative or it may start with CHEC staff or with a collaborative discussion. The process changes depending on how the problem and solution develops.

Flexibility also applies to the implementation of the solution. Working groups will often develop a ‘family’ of solutions that reflect the different pressures in the different LDCs. Eighty percent of a task might be collaborative with the remaining twenty percent able to be customized based on the local evaluation. Within the framework, general parameters are set with flexibility designed in to allow each individual LDC to move forward.

In Closing

The collaboration within the CHEC organization isn’t simply among the CEOs or the CFOs or even the Operations Managers. From the initial stages of CHEC it was a natural progression to develop collaboration at all levels of the organization within the LDCs. CHEC currently provides support for operations, customer service, health & safety, finance and energy conservation among others. Staff at all levels of the CHEC organization benefit from this collaboration.

A collaborative model takes trust, time, communication, participation and flexibility from all the member utilities. By pooling shared expertise and experience, CHEC members develop not simply a good solution, but the best solution to provide efficiencies and support to all member LDCs. It is a strong model that continues to grow stronger as the CHEC utilities adapt and meet head on the challenges of Ontario’s changing electrical utility industry.

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its LDCs remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro, Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, Innpower, Lakefront Utilities, Lakeland Power, Midland PUC,  Niagara- on- the- Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro, Orillia Power, Ottawa River Power, Renfrew Hydro, Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution, Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution, Wellington North Power, and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


May 5, 2017 – JOB VACANCY

Electric Distribution Systems Manager of Assets & Design

Lakefront Utility Services Inc. (LUSI) is currently searching for a highly motivated, results oriented individual for the position of Electric Distribution Systems Manager of Assets & Design. Reporting to the President, this position will have responsibility for managing the planning, design, records, operation, construction and metering of the electric distribution system and will ensure that all work is in accordance with the OEB, IESO, ESA, MOE, Measurement Canada and the policies and procedures set out by LUSI.

Overall Responsibilities 

  • Design of distribution system expansions, connections and rebuilds, including the creation of project cost estimates, service confirmations, work order drawings, tenders, RFPs, and material
  • Establish capital budgets and collaborate with the Manager of Electric Operations on schedules for system expansions, connections, enhancements,
  • Establish and maintain construction and material standards and specifications for the electric distribution
  • Asset management, system improvements, preventative and predictive
  • Develop in conjunction with the electrical engineer, long range planning studies, including research of load growth patterns, load projection guidelines for new development and the review of contingency plans to restore service under emergency
  • Manage the electric metering assets and daily operations which includes maintaining and prioritizing work plans for meter re-verification, new meter installs, meter communication issues, electronic meter programming, records,
  • Manage the operation, updating and maintenance of the electric distribution’s GIS and SCADA
  • Prepare for and participate in the ESA 22/04 annual audit
  • Investigate new technologies as required to enhance the distribution system and provide
  • Overall management of fleet and related
  • Other duties as assigned

Qualifications 

  • Possess a University or College education in electrical engineering
  • Require a designation as a Professional Engineer or Certified Engineering Technologist (P.Eng., CET).
  • A minimum of ten years of electrical engineering experience in an electric distribution utility environment
  • Possess an in-depth knowledge of an electric utility and the Distribution System Code, specifically with respect to the design of overhead and underground distribution systems and metering
  • Demonstrated computer proficiency with desktop software applications and knowledge of GIS, SCADA, OMS and AMI software
  • An ability to manage effectively in a team environment and to coordinate multiple projects to meet
  • Must possess a valid class G driver’s license in good

This is a non-union position and salary is commensurable with qualifications and experience. We offer an excellent working environment, competitive compensation and benefit package, pension plan and opportunities for development. Interested candidates are invited to submit a resume, in confidence, by 4:30 p.m. on May 22, 2017 to the attention of Human Resources, 207 Division Street, PO Box 577, Cobourg, ON, K9A 4L3 or by email to hr@lusi.on.ca We thank all candidates in advance for their interest, however, only those selected for interviews will be contacted.


CHEC LDCs Perform Consistently Above Provincial Average in OEB Scorecard

April 26, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) has completed the analysis of the Ontario Energy Board Electricity Distributor Scorecard results. The analysis compares CHEC electricity distributors to one another and to other distributors in Ontario.  In the comparison with other distributors in the province, the smaller CHEC LDCs consistently performed better than the provincial average.

“CHEC distributors remain some of the higher performing electrical utilities in the province today,” said Ken Robertson, CHEC Regulatory Analyst. “And it extends across all areas of the scorecard.”

Mandated by the Ontario Energy Board, the Scorecard measures a utility’s performance in areas such as Service Quality, Customer Satisfaction, Safety, System Reliability, Asset Management, Cost Control, Conservation and Demand Management, Connection of Renewable Generation, and Financial Ratios.

On a consistent basis, and in a continuation of previous scorecards, the CHEC group of utilities achieved results that reflect their commitment to operating as efficiently and cost effectively as possible in their communities.

Recent initiatives that contributed to their success include a group RFP for a provincial conservation program delivery agent, shared training for line workers and supervisors, the development of a Cost of service process that reduced the time and effort required to file a rate application, shared Roving Energy Manager, group roll-outs of both the Customer Satisfaction Survey and the Public Safety Survey, and a net metering working group to prepare for the increase in net metering installations. Member utilities can choose which initiatives they want to participate in based on their needs and timeframe.

“The result shows that for small LDCs the collaborative model is a valid model in Ontario,” said Ken Robertson, CHEC Regulatory Analyst. “We provide support and resources throughout LDC operations and that is reflected in the consistently strong results achieved by our LDCs.” He highlighted the Cost per Customer measure where CHEC LDCs, despite often having less than 30,000 customers, showed exceptional efficiencies and provided a testament to the value of their combined resources.

“We’ve done a lot to help our utilities be more efficient,” said Robertson. “And we’re always on the lookout for new ways to improve. The strength of our organization is in our diversity and we benefit by bringing each utility’s strengths and experiences into the larger organization.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members remain as active members of their communities, deliver value to their shareholders, and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro Ltd., Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, InnPower, Lakefront Utilities Inc., Lakeland Power Distribution Ltd., Midland Power Utility Corp., Niagara–on- the- Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro Ltd., Orillia Power Corp., Ottawa River Power Corporation, Renfrew Hydro Inc., Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution Inc., Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution Inc., Wellington North Power Inc., and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


The Evolution of a Collaborative Relationship

March 28, 2017 Brockville, ON – Collaboration is at the centre of the CHEC Association, and three of the CHEC LDCs, Centre Wellington, Orangeville Hydro, and Wellington North Hydro have taken that spirit of collaboration a step further through the support and sharing of resources that exists between their LDCs.

The benefits of the relationship that have been realized by the three LDCs include:

  • Access to additional staff and equipment without the requirement to maintain the resources in-house;
  • The development of a community of utility workers that extends beyond their local community;
  • Access to a broader range of skills and expertise.

“One of the challenges of a small LDC is the limited staff and resources available when completing larger scale jobs,” said Carm Stefanelli, Manager of Operations at Centre Wellington Hydro. “By sharing staff in specific situations, it allows us to cost-effectively complete our work and make the most of our resources.”

In the last year, all three LDCs have sent line crews to help complete work for either a single day or a project that spans an entire weekend. In some instances it is the additional crew members that are required; in others it is the specialized equipment from the other LDC that is needed to complete the project.

The three LDCs work together on Joint training to reduce costs through the sharing of training opportunities including bucket evacuation, pole top rescue and working at heights among others.

“We make a conscious effort to work together for training opportunities,” said Rob Koekkoek, Manager of Operations and Engineering at Orangeville Hydro. “Training together gives our crews the opportunity to get to know each other so that when it comes time for other shared projects the working relationship already exists.”

Working with crews from other LDCs also allows for an exchange of knowledge between crews and exposure to different voltages and work processes that they might not encounter at their home LDC.

“This is a skilled, knowledge-based trade,” said Koekkoek. “Each crew brings experience from both sides. They share with us and we share with them.”

As the three LDCs have grown more comfortable working together, opportunities for new areas where they can share resources continue to evolve. There is currently discussion on sharing a lineman apprentice that would provide training across a wide variety of voltages and training scenarios while giving the smaller LDCs access to the skills of an apprentice when they might not have the resources to hire one full time specifically for their LDC. Koekkoek sees an opportunity in succession planning and the challenge of an aging work force.

“There may be a way we can help each other [as our workforce retires],” said Koekkoek. “Collaboration is a way to ease that transition.”

The geographic proximity of the three LDCs has contributed to the growing collaboration between the LDCs yet the increased relationship goes beyond simple geography.

“Our collaboration is growing stronger out of need,” said Jim Klujber, Chief Operating Officer, Wellington North Power. “When dealing with the full breadth of what it takes to run an LDC, we seek out the individual with the expertise we need to supplement our existing resources. Increased collaboration has been a natural evolution as the need for cost efficiencies has increased and we look for new ways to serve our customers in the best way we can.”

 


CHEC Welcomes Grimsby Power and Tillsonburg Hydro as New Members

March 16, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts (CHEC) is pleased to welcome Grimsby Power and Tillsonburg Hydro as the newest CHEC members.  Grimsby Power services 11,250 in Grimsby and area, with Tillsonburg Hydro servicing 7,100 customers in the Town of Tillsonburg. The addition of these two LDCs brings the total number of customers served by CHEC LDCs to over 165,000.

“As more and more pressure is put on LDCs to provide electricity at the lowest possible cost, LDCs are seeing the benefits of the cost efficiencies and shared knowledge that are available through our Association,” said COO of CHEC, Gord Eamer.

The two LDCs bring the total number of CHEC members to 17 with the group having chosen to achieve the cost efficiencies of a larger organization through the CHEC resources while remaining as autonomous, active members of their communities. CHEC LDCs are located throughout the province from Goderich Hydro in the west, Rideau St. Lawrence in the east, Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro in the south, and Ottawa River Power in the north.

“We were very interested to see the benefits that CHEC has been providing to its members and saw that their model fit well with our efforts to do the best for our customers and provide them with the most cost effective and reliable supply of electricity that we can,” said Remy Fernandes, CEO of Grimsby Power.

“The diversity and the flexibility of the CHEC support was what drew us to the Association,” said Michael Desroches, CEO & General Manager of Tillsonburg Hydro. “It allows us to access the support in the areas that we need, contribute our own expertise in our areas of strength, and be part of the increased efficiencies and reduced costs for all the Association’s LDCs.”

CHEC was formed in 2000 as a response to de-regulation in the electrical industry. It initially set out to provide support with regulatory changes to the industry and has since developed to provide a full spectrum of support and resources across the Finance & Regulatory, Operations and Conservation and Demand Management portfolios.

“We provide a flexible, collaborative resource that spans the entire LDC operation,” said Eamer. “Whether it’s issuing group RFPs for the roll out of conservation programs, providing training on new technologies to our line crews, or developing rate processes to allow our LDCs to prepare their Cost of Service application in-house at a significantly reduced cost.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 17 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its members remain as active members of their communities, deliver value to their shareholders, and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro Ltd., Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, InnPower, Lakefront Utilities Inc., Lakeland Power Distribution Ltd., Midland Power Utility Corp., Niagara–on- the- Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro Ltd., Orillia Power Corp., Ottawa River Power Corporation, Renfrew Hydro Inc., Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution Inc., Tillsonburg Hydro, Wasaga Distribution Inc., Wellington North Power Inc., and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Tool Released to CHEC LDCs

Helping CHEC LDCs improve their work place and meet regulatory requirements

March 15, 2017 Brockville, ON – Cornerstone Hydro Electric Concepts has released the Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Tool to help its member LDCs meet the requirements in the Occupational Health and Safety Act, in light of the September 2016 changes to Workplace Harassment.

The tool was developed as part of a complete CHEC service that delivers:

  • A completed Workplace Violence Risk Assessment;
  • A tool to update and maintain activities between assessments;
  • A list of action items to address areas of potential improvement;
  • Improved knowledge and awareness of the workplace as it relates to workplace violence.

 

The process was initially developed in conjunction with Midland PUC who had identified the need to update their Workplace Harassment and Violence Policies and Programs. The Workplace Violence Risk Assessment was one of various requirements noted in this update as it reflects legislative requirements. CHEC Health & Safety Specialist Taylor McHugh guided the Midland staff through:

 

  1. An assessment of the general physical environment;
  2. Identification of risks specific to their environment;
  3. The assessment of specific risks in the LDC work environment including but not limited to direct contact with customers, handling cash, and working in a community based setting.

“Working through the Workplace Violence Risk Assessment Tool was definitely worthwhile for us,” said Patty Giblin, Operations Office Manager at Midland PUC. “It allowed us to take a look at our current processes and make adjustments to ensure that our employees are as safe as possible. Taylor [McHugh] guided us through the assessment process, making what looked like a daunting task straight forward and painless.”

McHugh noted that certain risks of workplace violence may not be fully recognized and understood in the workplace until an assessment exercise is worked through. “The assessment tool is very specific. It’s not until you get to work through and see each element that you can appreciate the areas of strength and the areas for potential improvement.”

McHugh wanted to develop a tool that would allow the LDCs to maintain and update their procedures between assessments. By combining a variety of existing tools and adding the functionality that the CHEC LDCs needed, they arrived at a comprehensive solution that provides a process that can be used by LDCs on an on-going basis and a service that can be accessed when required.

 

“We wanted to put together a tool that would be effective and that would be easily implemented by our utilities,” said McHugh. “We’ve provided it as a complete service so that if our LDCs need our assistance we can help them work through the process.”

ABOUT CHEC

CHEC is a collaborative association for 16 small Local Distribution Companies in Ontario. By sharing experience, knowledge and resources CHEC helps its LDCs remain as active members of their communities and provide safe, efficient, and cost effective electricity distribution to their customers.  The current members of CHEC are Centre Wellington Hydro, Collus PowerStream, Grimsby Power, Innpower, Lakefront Utilities, Lakeland Power, Midland PUC,  Niagara on the Lake Hydro, Orangeville Hydro, Orillia Power, Ottawa River Power, Renfrew Hydro, Rideau St. Lawrence Distribution, Wasaga Distribution, Wellington North Power, and West Coast Huron Energy Inc.


NOTL Hydro Board urges Minister of Energy to cancel the FIT 5 Energy Procurement

An Opportunity to Stop Adding Additional Costs to the Ontario Electricity System

March 1, 2017, Niagara-on-the-Lake –Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro’s Board is calling on the Minister of Energy to cancel all new renewable generation projects in the FIT 5 program. The FIT (Feed-In Tariff) programs are a series of procurements of renewable energy and provide fixed rate contracts for 20 years and more at above market prices to successful applicants.  They were introduced as part of Ontario’s Green Energy Act of 2009 to facilitate the market transformation of renewable electricity generation.

An analysis of the last round of contracts (FIT 4), a total of 241 MW awarded in June 2016, shows that Ontario electricity consumers will be paying an estimated $27.4 million a year over and above the already high cost of electricity in Ontario and will contribute another $61 million to the Global Adjustment each year.  The generation being built under these contracts, predominately solar, will begin producing electricity in 2017 and 2018 and will continue to generate high-priced electricity over the 20 year life of these contracts.

“We are not against renewable generation, we are against the method of how the Province is procuring it”, said Jim Ryan, Chair of NOTL Hydro. “We cannot continue to add $30 million here and $20 million there to the overall cost and not realize that this is going to have a cumulative impact. Today’s high prices are evidence of this.  No FIT 5 contracts have yet been awarded or signed so the Minister would have the right to cancel the process and save Ontario electricity consumers tens of millions of additional costs.”

NOTL Hydro believes renewable energy is the future of electricity, but that its procurement should be driven by market demand at commercially acceptable prices.  Many countries are seeing solar energy being offered at below market prices due to continued improvements in the technology.

In his December 16, 2016 directive to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Minister of Energy cancelled the planned 2017 program (FIT 6) and scaled back the current FIT 5 program to 150 MW. The Board of Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) Hydro congratulates the Minister on taking this important step towards containing the rising cost of electricity generation in Ontario but thinks the Minister can do more by cancelling the current call for projects.

The Board of NOTL Hydro has previously urged the Minister and the Premier to take steps to reduce the high cost of electricity in Ontario and has provided concrete suggestions.

ABOUT NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE HYDRO

Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro distributes power to over 9,000 customers in the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We are committed to operating as a sustainable high-performance, customer-driven business and to providing the highest standard in safety, service and reliability. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is the 100% shareholder of the corporation.

 


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.”