Canada’s first community-wide smart grid system is in the spotlight after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the C$34-million facility’s official launch in Sault Ste. Marie last Friday.
Local community members, their elected representatives, and local electricity provider PUC Services have shown “enormous leadership” in getting the Sault Smart Grid (SSG) up and running, Trudeau said, during his visit to the utility in the northern Ontario city. The fact that the newly-launched smart grid is bringing down costs for consumers “is, and should be, an inspiration to communities right across the country.”
Sault Ste. Marie residents can expect to save 2.7% on average energy costs, while the SSG will cut back annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 2,804 tonnes of carbon dioxide, PUC said in a news release.
Smart grids are electricity networks that use monitoring technologies to match supply and demand in real time. By doing so, they minimize costs for consumers while maintaining grid reliability and stability. Smart grids are an important element of the larger transition to low-carbon power grids because they can help manage supply from intermittent sources like wind and solar, while managing demand to reduce the need for costly new grid infrastructure.
The SSG covers 100% of PUC’s service area and uses several smart grid technologies, including distributed automation, voltage/VAR management, and the enhancement of existing advanced metering infrastructure. Self-healing networks and integrated data management systems will help the utility plan for normal outages and address weather events. The project received $7.7 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada towards its $34-million price tag, and is now positioned to accommodate new distributed energy resources.
“We set out to become a national leader in the energy industry, and the smart grid project turns that aspiration into reality,” said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker.
The Lac-Mégantic smart microgrid in Quebec’s Estrie region has operated on a smaller scale since 2021. The community recently received additional funding to “make the project a model for other communities.”