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Comber residents plugged into Hydro One's planned expansion




by Greg Layson

Hydro One is seeking the public’s input about a new massive transmission line planned to run through the heart of Southwestern Ontario, including the tiny hamlet of Comber.

  That’s where several residents packed the Comber Community Centre to have their questions answered and concerns met at an open house hosted March 27.

  The new line will run from the Longwood Transformer Station in Strathroy-Caradoc, just west of London, to the Lakeshore Transformer Station, in the northeast corner of Lakeshore. 

  Hydro One is consulting with the public on which one of three possible transmission line routes to use to deliver more power to Southwestern Ontario by 2030. 

  Two of the proposed routes run along the northern edge of Highway 401, while the other route runs even further north of the highway, largely north of the banks of the Thames River and Chatham. All three options cut through Comber, ending at the transformer located west of Highway 77.

  Matt Robinson’s home sits in the path of one of the proposed routes.

  “I'm not one that was [ticked] off either way. If it takes my house, it takes my house. I didn't really care,” he said after lengthy discussion with Hydro One officials on March 27. “I just wanted to know, if that's the case, what's going to happen?

  “It's going to get done, whether I like it or not. So, at the end of the day, it’s more or less figuring out what my next five-years look like. Are we going to be at our home for five more years? Are we going to not invest anymore, waiting to be bought?”

  Lakeshore Councillor Larissa Vogler, who was at the open house, called the attendance “an amazing turn out.

  “I think residents remain concerned about the impact on the town of Comber,” she said. “I'm so happy to see so many residents come out and engage with this, because there's nothing worse than not knowing what's happening and then being surprised.”

  The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which is responsible for ensuring that future energy needs are being met in the Province of Ontario, has determined that electricity demand in the southwest region is expected to quadruple by 2035. To support that projected growth, the IESO has determined the first transmission line needs to be operational by 2030.

  “Southwest Ontario continues to attract new businesses and residents to the region. As communities grow, Hydro One is providing the power that supports new jobs, homes, and industries,” Hydro One said. “The new transmission lines will support expanding industries and the agri-business sector that helps put food on tables across the country.”

  Leamington’s greenhouse industry is booming, and auto-making giant Stellantis has partnered with LG Energy Solution on a $5-billion electric-vehicle battery plant in Windsor. 

  The first line will be able to deliver an additional 550 megawatts of power to the region. That’s “enough electricity to energize life in a city the size of London, Ontario,” Hydro One said.

  All three of the proposed paths pass through farmland, which concerns Louie Roesch, who is the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s Director for Chatham-Kent-Essex. 

  He called transmission lines “an inhibitor on the farmland.”

  Farmers will have to sell portions of their land to Hydro One.

  “We're trying to get the best compensation that we can get for them, so that it's fair,” Roesch said of the OFA’s role. “It's not necessarily about the price. It's about fairness. 

  “It gets tense with a few people, but in general, they understand that you can't stop it, it's going to happen anyway. And you do not want to go through expropriation.”

  The process remains in the very early stages. Initial open houses, data collection, and development of route alternatives began in 2023. The notice of commencement of an Environmental Assessment, release of route alternatives, and open houses are all scheduled to happen this year.

  Two more open houses are scheduled in Thamesville and Glencoe. A virtual open house will take place April 24.

  Daniel Levitan, Vice-President of Stakeholder Relations at Hydro One, calls the open houses “meaningful and open engagement.”

  Vogler is pleased by Hydro One’s efforts, so far.

  “Overall, I think that Hydro One is answering questions as they're coming forward and have said that they will continue to do so,” Vogler said. “That’s all we can ask.”

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