Sault Smart Grid earns high praise from PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Sault Ste. Marie Friday. The PM was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the official opening of the PUC’s Sault Smart Grid (SSG).

The $34 million project modernizes and enhances the way electricity is distributed in the city. It’s the first tech of its kind in operation in Canada and is widely viewed as the future for the delivery of electricity, with greater efficiency and eco-friendly properties.

“There is no choice to be made, between a clean environment and a strong economy,” Trudeau told a large gathering at PUC headquarters. “It’s really, really important to see, what has been done here, can andshould be done right across the country and indeed, right around the world.”

Trudeau praised the efforts of the PUC, Sault MP Terry Sheehan, the city and other partners for coming together to make the project a reality. “The leadership that the Sault has shown, the leadership that the PUC has shown in moving towards being the first community in Canada with a fully smart grid, is enormous. And the fact that you did it, in a way that is actually bringing down costs to consumers, homeowners across the city is and should be an inspiration to communities, right across the country.”
The occasion was likely extra-special for Sheehan, who eight years ago embarked on a campaign for the Smart Grid technology to be implemented in the Sault.

Sheehan, who served for four terms as a councillor in Ward 2, seconded a motion by then-Ward 1 Coun. Steve Butland in 2018 that the promising tech be brought here. The SSG project received significant support from National Resources Canada (NRCan), with $7.7 million in funding, largely due to relentless efforts of Sheehan as Sault MP in Ottawa.“I’m proud to be the seconder of that resolution declaring Sault Ste. Marie to be alternative energy capital of North America,” said Sheehan, “and we certainly have done a lot to deserve to be called that.”

Friday was Bring Your Child To Work Day at the PUC, and Sheehan rechoed Trudeau’s comments when addressing the kids in the crowd, crediting PUC employees for their efforts to make the SSG a reality.
“This Smart Grid was conceived by smart people,” Sheehan told the gathering. “It was built by very smart people. Your parents were the ones that made today happen. So thank your parents, for me, when you go
home today for allowing us to grow as a community, to create opportunities for other families that wish to live, work and play in Sault Ste.Marie.”

The Sault Smart Grid is expected to generate 2.7 per cent in energy savings for Sault residents. That should mean a lower power bill for consumers. The new system will feature shorter power outages with less residents effected than in the past.

Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker called Terry Sheehan “a dogged advocate” for the SSG. “Before it even became a concept that the board was discussing there were local champions for it like former Mayor and Sault MP Steve Butland,” said Shoemaker, “who talked about the potential of this program endlessly. I would say they (Sheehan, Butland) planted the seed for this idea.

“But the project would not be here today if not for (President and CEO of PUC Services) Rob Brewer and his team at PUC,” continued Shoemaker. “The PUC is an asset for our community and I don’t just mean on our balance sheet. As it continues to pursue innovative projects that improve service and reliability for customers, it will strengthen and help diversify our economy.”

The SSG is seen as ‘the way’ to deliver electricity into the future in part because it helps combat climate change. The implementation of the new grid will lead to an annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2,804 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Brewer called SSG a “modernized, cutting-edge grid that is transforming the way PUC delivers electricity. It really is an example of what we can achieve when we together towards a common goal. This includes the sup[port and collaboration of the federal government who contributed nearly $8 million towards the project.”

The SSG would not have been possible without that contribution, Brewer said, with a nod to Sheehan’s drive. “Terry has been with us on this journey form the beginning. He’s acted as a persistent advocate for the smart grid and he’s been a persistent advocate for our community.”

Brewer also thanked former Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano, a former member of PUC’s board of directors for his efforts and support of the SSG. He also thanked the PUC Board, “numerous” local contractors and partners. Brewer saved a final tip of the cap for PUC staff.

“I can say without a doubt, that we have some of the most innovative, some of the most resilient, hard-working employees that you’ll find anywhere. To all of you staff here, you will forever be a part of PUC’s
history and I know with the team we have here, this is just the beginning of many accomplishments to come.”

The Smart Grid was approved by the Ontario Energy Board in May, 2021. In its assessment of the project, the OEB said it was in the public interest by “delivering direct benefits to customers through reduction in energy consumption, reliability improvements, improved planning and data reporting systems. The OEB also noted the innovative nature of the project.


  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

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