Summerside council releases funding for MyPowerNet

Mike Carson, Journal Pioneer
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Summerside Electric employee Larry Blacquiere installs a smart metre on a city building. The Smart Grid technology is cited as one of the reasons why Summerside received first place for sustainability in Atlantic Business Magazine’s 2012 Corporate Social Responsibility awards.

SUMMERSIDE — City council has voted to release $469,759 already approved to help fund the MyPowerNet program.

But the vote wasn’t unanimous.

Coun. Cory Thomas was the lone dissenter to the plan. MyPower Net received a $945,000 investment from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Innovative Communities Fund that will allow for the expansion of a digital electrical network (fibre-optics/smart metres) that will support the local business community.

“I know that getting the ACOA funding made it easier because the funding was coming from elsewhere,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, we have future phases (of the program) and it commits the taxpayers to building the fibre-optic system which I felt all along, that if the city really wanted to, in the initial stages, there could have been more serious discussion held with private sector to partner.

“I couldn’t support, whether it be ACOA funding or whoever. ACOA funding is still taxpayers’ dollars.”

MyPowerNet is the project that deals with the city’s heating program - Heat for Less - and the installation of electrical thermal storage units that are capable of taking energy from the wind and storing it in the high density ceramic bricks to be used for heating homes.

The other piece of the plan is communications.

This is the installation of smart meters and the optical fibre that is necessary for the furnaces and the meters to be able to communicate with the utility to ensure that customers are getting the most efficient timing and delivery of the energy.

MyPowerNet is taking over the former Smart Grid Meter Program.

The issue in the past was the cost of the fibre optics. Four members of city council wanted the city to partner with EastLink, Bell Aliant or Rogers to help defray the high costs of fibre installation.

The suggestion at the time was, these companies already have the lines laid and the technology to increase it at minimal costs and the city should investigate partnering. Another issue was that the some members of council saw the city putting itself in competition with the private sector.

On two occasions a council vote was split four in favour and four against, with Mayor Basil Stewart casting the deciding vote not to partner, but for the city to undertake the project on its own.

“I hope I’m wrong and that this turns out to be the best thing since sliced bread,” Thomas said. “I support the idea in theory but from the outset felt the private sector could have been a major player in the plan.”

Organizations: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Summerside council, Innovative Communities Fund Bell Aliant

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