Getting to know Ontario’s electricity system – Part 3: How electricity gets to you

How electricity gets to you

Last time, we looked at how the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada are responding to the threat of climate change (or not) through policy, and before that, all about how energy is produced in Ontario. In part 3 of this series, we are going to take a look at the actors involved in getting electricity from the hydro dam, wind turbine, or nuclear plant into our homes.

Pickering nuclear plant and wind turbine, Ontario
Pickering Nuclear and wind turbine across Lake Ontario; Source: “Pickering nuclear” by “7119320@N05” is licensed by “CC BY-NC 2.0”

Four steps to getting electricity into your home

  1. Generation: This step involves electricity generation at the hubs of power production we talked about last week. In Ontario, these include nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biogas, and natural gas power plants.
  1. Transmission: Once the electricity is produced, it is transported at high voltages, often across long distances.
  1. Distribution: In this step, power is converted to a lower voltage so that it can be used by our buildings and appliances.
  1. Consumption: Finally, we flip the light switch, make some coffee, or watch TV, all of which is made possible by electricity being produced often hundreds of kilometres away.

This video from the Ministry of Energy sums it up well:

So that’s how power is getting to your home, but who is responsible for this important process? As it turns out, there are at least six government and private bodies involved in getting electricity to you.

Ontario Ministry of Energy (MOE)

Energy is provincial jurisdiction in Canada, which means that the Ministry of Energy is responsible for electricity planning. In practice, this involves developing the Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), which outlines the energy goals for the province and plans for each agency to achieve those goals.

Ontario Energy Board (OEB)

This quasi-judicial body oversees power production in the province, providing licenses and contracts to energy producers and regulating the rates consumers are charged for energy.

Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO)

The IESO has many roles in the energy system, perhaps most importantly ensuring that the province has enough power to meet its demand. Minute-by-minute, the IESO must balance power demand and supply. It does this by tracking use and generation, directing power to where it’s needed. It is also largely responsible for procuring new power generating sources, as directed by the Ministry of Energy. This includes procuring renewable energy generation under the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) and Large Renewable Procurement Programs, as well as overseeing energy conservation programs. The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) formerly carried out these latter tasks, but the two merged under the IESO in January 2015.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG)

OPG is responsible for roughly half of the power production in Ontario through nuclear and hydro electricity generation, and also operates two wind turbines.

Hydro One

This provincially owned corporation owns most of the transmission lines in the province, and some distribution lines in rural areas.

Local Distribution Companies (LDCs)

There are more than 70 Local Distribution Companies in Ontario responsible for power distribution in cities and towns. Most of these LDCs are owned by municipalities.

This interactive map allows you to explore the various levels of generation, transmission, and distribution:

map of southern ontario ldcs
Map of Local Distribution Companies in Ontario; Source: IESO

How you can get involved

On July 5, 2015, join Our Power at the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. Thousands will be marching for, among other things, a clean electricity system for Ontario and Canada. We will be meeting at 12:45 in front of Trinity College to assemble before the March. To learn more and register your support, visit

July 5 march Community Power facebook image

Next time, we’ll focus on the cost of electricity throughout the entire life cycle, and how that’s reflected in your energy bill.


Header image source:web-DSC_1709 by “eastpole” is licensed by “CC BY-NC-ND 2.0”

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