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Ontario Grapples With Record-Breaking Demand, Labor Strife

Ontario's power grid skated on thin ice for much of last week as the province grappled with high temperatures, record-breaking power demand and labor strife that threatened to take much-needed generating units offline.

The Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) pleaded with consumers on several days last week to reduce their use of electricity as electricity demand reached near record highs.

Ontario's electricity demand last Tuesday afternoon was just under 26,000 MW, only slightly lower than Monday's (June 27) all-time record demand for electricity. Ontario's electricity demand reached 26,000 MW late Monday afternoon, breaking the previous record of 25,414 MW set on Aug. 13, 2002.

By Wednesday, the IESO had determined that there was no need for a "Power Warning" for Thursday, June 30, citing lower power demand projections. Ontario's electricity demand on Wednesday afternoon (June 29) was under 25,000 MW.

As if the high temperatures and soaring demand for electricity weren't enough for the province to deal with, Ontario has also had to contend with ongoing labor strife that has threatened to take badly-needed generation offline.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) last Tuesday filed a claim for damages from the Society of Energy Professionals, some of its officers and its officials to compensate OPG for losses caused by picketing at OPG sites by striking employees of Hydro One.

OPG's claim cites recent instances of picketing at five OPG plants that impacted the operations of the stations, especially by blocking workers from entering the generation stations. In one case, on June 24 at Nanticoke, OPG was forced to shut down six of eight units because they could not be operated safely until replacement employees were ferried in by helicopter.

OPG also contends that it should be reimbursed for additional costs in protecting and attempting to gain access to its property. These costs include additional security fees, van and bus rentals, helicopter and boat rentals and other transportation fees, for payment of wages for employees and/or contractors who could not perform work due to inability to access the plant and payment of overtime wages for employees and/or contractors who could not leave their work assignments until they were replaced. In addition, OPG is seeking compensation for the value of electricity output that was lost as a result of the picketing.

The statement was filed Tuesday afternoon. A parallel motion to restrict picketing across the province also has been filed and could be heard as early as July 5 in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

OPG last week obtained an injunction to limit picketing at Nanticoke. The injunction will limit picketing and is in effect only at Nanticoke, which has eight units capable of generating 500 MW of power apiece. It is the biggest generating station in OPG's fleet.

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