June 27, 2022 / By Daniella Bidin

Maintaining the Grid is a Team Effort

If there is one thing employees of the electricity sector are very aware of it’s the weather. For Canada’s lineworkers watching the clouds roll in doesn’t mean that it’s time to head home. It means it’s time to get to work. Every day, lineworkers help install and maintain Canada’s complex electricity grid. Often working in extreme conditions, lineworkers are trained to work efficiently, safely and collaboratively to keep the lights on for Canadians.

Lineworkers have one of the ten riskiest jobs in Canada, ensuring that the essential infrastructure we depend on is safe, reliable and sustainable.

Extreme conditions, however, are just a taste of the challenges we will face racing against climate change. According to a recent study published in the Science Journal, “a person born in 2020 will experience three times as many climate events/hazards compared to a person born in 1960. They will experience 7.5 times as many heat waves, 2.8 times as many floods and twice as many wildfires.”

When extreme weather or other damaging events occur within a utility’s service territory, they may call upon the aid of other utilities to assist in the restoration. As a result lineworkers, arborists and other field staff travel to assist restoration efforts, with deployments ranging from neighbouring service territories to multi-utility international efforts as Canadian utilities are also often asked to respond to requests for resources both to the United States and the Caribbean. In 2020, Electricity Canada members sent more than 200 personnel across the border to assist with storm restoration in the U.S. These efforts are sometimes coordinated in regional mutual assistance groups, allowing a utility’s request for mutual aid to efficiently reach more utilities and more customers.

One of Electricity Canada’s newest pilots – now transformed into a permanent program –works with utilities across Ontario, to deliver disaster management coordination from across the province. This program is called the Ontario Mutual Assistance Group (OnMAG). OnMAG assists in connecting utilities who need assistance with those who can respond. The result is a rapid response that can help get the power back on for customers quickly. Recently, OnMAG was activated on May 21st, 2022, in response to a derecho resulting in over 350,000 outages across Ontario and Quebec.

Every year on July 10th, Electricity Canada and our membership celebrate National Lineworker Appreciation Day to recognize these brave individuals who work tirelessly and risk their lives to keep the lights on in their own, and neighboring communities.

With electricity becoming more and more important in the road to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, the work lineworkers do becomes even more important. Canada will need to produce up to two to three times as much clean power as it does now to meet these goals. Lineworkers have always been on the front lines of every storm, pandemic, or wildfire, and work to maintain and repair the grid that powers essential services. And now, they will be on the front lines to help electricity become the primary energy source.