Dirty Generators Not In E-Bus Approval Report To Council


The staff report to Ottawa City Council used to approve just less than $1 billion in funding for electric buses does not mention that generators would be needed to charge the OC Transpo fleet.

The report, OK’d by council on Feb. 1, 2023, goes into some detail about the money required for the fleet and charging of the e-buses but does not address the nature of the charging infrastructure.

The lack of generating information in the e-bus report came two months after the release of the provincial LRT inquiry that said city council was not told the testing approval standards for the $2.2-billion Stage 1 program were dropped before the system went into service.

“This conduct irreparably compromised the legal oversight ability of Council and raises serious concerns about whether the City of Ottawa can properly complete significant infrastructure projects,” the provincial inquiry said.

The generation issue came about after The Bulldog revealed last week that a mammoth backup system of two generators with an output of 8 megawatts combined would be required for charging the e-bus fleet. The two generators produce enough power to electrify all the homes in a city the size of Brockville.

That has caused concerns about whether the generators are the prime source of power for the e-bus charging system. City staff says the generators are a back-up to power received from Hydro Ottawa though staff admitted in a one-paragraph response to inquiries from The Bulldog that the municipally owned utility does not have enough capacity to serve the new bus system. It did not address how much of the electricity generated would come from Hydro Ottawa versus fossil-fuel production.

The city, in its emailed response to The Bulldog, did not reveal the source of the fuel for the generators but the possibilities are very limited. They most likely burn natural gas or diesel which makes the zero emission bus program a significant source of air pollution. Diesel fuel in particular in especially dirty and that’s what is used to power the current fleet of OC Transpo buses. It is also likely to fuel the heating systems of the e-buses because electric heaters would greatly cut the range of the battery-powered vehicles. Diesel generation also creates unpleasant odours and is a significant source of noise pollution on an industrial scale.

Due to the lack of good information on generation coming from the city, The Bulldog last week asked for an interview with a city official with knowledge of the issue but so far the interview request has not been granted by the municipal media relations department.

A commenter to The Bulldog, Raymond Leury of the volunteer, non-profit interest group Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa says his organization contributed to the discussions surrounding the project and that the generators are diesel. Leury also says the generators will only be used as a backup.

Ken Gray


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4 Responses

  1. Jake Morrison says:

    Note that the E-Bus ‘backup’ generators, at 8 MW nameplate capacity, are the same size as the New Civic Development Hospital ‘peak shaving’ generators, generators that will be used at least two hours a day to save the hospital money on its electrical bill. The new hospital will also have 28 MW of ‘backup’ generators installed.
    We are getting a lot of fossil fuel powered generation capacity in Ottawa in the next few years!

  2. Ron Benn says:

    Jake, the overall demand for electricity in Ontario is on the rise, and has been for quite some time. The provincial government has announced action plans to increase the supply. That said, there are a lot of physical steps that need to take place between the announcement and the actual delivery of power.

    At issue is not so much how much new capacity will be available as:
    > when will it be available;
    > how much it will cost to implement; and
    > where will it be directed to.

    The last bullet is the most important. There are a lot of municipalities in Eastern Ontario that are standing in line for the incremental supply. Where Ottawa is in this line is an open question.

    None of this is news to city hall. Thus the multiple decisions to put in place “tried and tested” generating capacity, notwithstanding the awkward optics of the long term “temporary” (I do love oxymorons) back up generators that rely on fossil fuels.

  3. Andrew says:

    The news in January stated “Enbridge to reapply for approval to replace aging St. Laurent pipeline”. As well the current Provincial Government is choosing gas fired electricity over renewable energy. Ford said no city will get a gas plant unless they want it. Several cities have rejected the offer by council vote.
    Napanee was offered a cash incentive and decided to accept a new addition of gas fired generating plants.
    As Jake noted, there is a dozen gas and diesel generators being planned to be running on leased national heritage farmland in the Hospital.
    Is it a coincidence that these seem to fit the government plans to carbonize our ” almost green ” power supply by getting new fossil powered generators, without needing a specific Council “vote” on the issue due to LRT and eBus needs?
    It seems convenient to me, and the St Laurent gas upgrade now makes sense.

  4. cliff says:

    In the city’s Energy Evolution strategy they want to develop renewable electricity and install 150MW solar, 20MW Wind, 20 MW Hydro, and 20MW Electricity storage.
    The wind generation will require 710 large-scale turbines producing 3,218 MW by 2050 to achieve the 100% scenario. 310MW of local energy storage by 2030. I fear there are other projects which are also hidden. The recent articles on energy storage plans for Western and Southern Ottawa show these projects which are now just appearing. These projects appear to be “approved” through policy documents you have to sift through to find out what the plan is and you don’t get the complete picture. Burying the plans in tons of documents is an effective way to slide these projects through. By the way, it costs $6B to put up 710 windmills, and the city just advertised their intent to issue Green Bonds.

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