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Ontario investing $1 billion to extend lifespan of its biggest hydro dams

To provide clean power to about 1.7 million homes in future, Ontario is investing $1 billion to extend the life of the province’s largest and historic hydroelectric dams in the Niagara region.

The investment in the Sir Adam Beck generating stations fed by nearby Niagara Falls aims to secure up to 1,700 megawatts of clean electricity for an additional three decades. The initial phase, set to start in 2025, will refurbish up to 25 units at the Sir Adam Beck complex, managed by the publicly owned Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its partner, GE Vernova, a statement from Ontario’s Ministry of Energy said.

“To continue to generate renewable, low-carbon and low-cost power, OPG is investing in upgrading existing hydroelectric assets to meet increasing electricity demand as Ontario continues to electrify,” said OPG in an email response to Canada’s National Observer. “The refurbishment work includes replacing and modernizing existing turbines and improving existing generating capacity. With proper maintenance and upkeep, these generating assets can produce clean, low-cost power for generations.”

Sir Adam Beck, a century-old facility, remains a stalwart source of clean power, producing about 12,300 gigawatt-hours of energy annually, representing roughly nine per cent of Ontario’s total electricity output.

“For more than 100 years, hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls has powered our province, and with today’s investment we’re extending the life of these stations by another 30 years to help Ontario meet its growing electricity needs,” said Energy Minister Todd Smith in a statement. “This refurbishment program — part of our Powering Ontario’s Growth Plan — will create jobs and ensure we have the power we need for the next major international investment, the new homes we are building and industries, as they grow and electrify.”

Through their partnership, OPG and GE Vernova have signed an agreement to refurbish the Sir Adam Beck complex over the next 15 years. This initiative will create over 200 highly skilled and well-paid jobs in the Niagara region, OPG said.

“Upgrading and optimizing OPG’s renewable generation workhorses like the Sir Adam Beck complex is crucial to support the growing demands of electrification and a thriving economy,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG president and CEO. “Through this refurbishment, this hydropower facility will build on its century-plus history, and continue to produce the low-cost, reliable electricity Ontarians need for decades to come.”

According to the Ministry of Energy, this investment in Ontario’s hydroelectric fleet is part of the government’s plan, “Powering Ontario’s Growth,” aimed at meeting energy demand and reducing emissions by expanding the province’s reliable, affordable, and clean grid.

The Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator forecasts that the province’s energy transformation is gaining momentum, with steady demand projected to increase by an average of two per cent annually over the coming decades, amounting to a 59 per cent approximate increase by 2050. This growth is driven by economic expansion, population growth and the electrification of industries, such as mining and steel, as well as the increasing adoption of electric vehicles.

Read More: Ontario investing $1 billion to extend lifespan of its biggest hydro dams

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