Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Ontario struggles to regain its feet

DOUBLE WHAMMY In addition to the threat of rolling power failures, a computer worm wrought havoc on the emergency special response systems


Ontario narrowly avoided possible rolling blackouts as hot weather brought increased electricity demand from a system still recovering from a huge blackout that hit the northeastern US and parts of Canada last week.

Despite conservation measures by industry, businesses and consumers, the peak demand Tuesday was 19,180 megawatts, about 1,100 megawatts less than the amount available, Premier Ernie Eves said.

If demand had exceeded the supply, the province would have cut power to some areas to prevent overloading the system. With no plants scheduled to restart yesterday, Eves said the supply would remain the same with another day of hot weather forecast.

"We have another challenge ahead of us tomorrow," he said.

Terry Young, a spokesman for the Independent Electricity Market Operator that regulates Ontario's power, said traditional US sources in New York and Michigan have little excess to send because they also are recovering from the Aug. 14 blackout. That leaves neighboring provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, as well as Minnesota in the US, as possible providers.

Eves and others have pleaded for people to use as little power as possible to avoid overloading a system still operating below capacity. On Monday, demand peaked at 18,270 megawatts, well below the normal 23,000 megawatts or more on a summer weekday.

Eves said Tuesday that conservation measures -- including major automakers closing some plants, electric billboards being shut off and people urged to keep air conditioners off as much as possible -- must continue for the rest of the week as power plants get restarted.

"Hotter temperatures will place more demand on the system," he said of a heat wave expected to bring temperatures of 30?C or higher.

More Ontario plants shut down by the blackout across a swath of the province and eight US states would restart today, Eves said, with close to full capacity expected to be reached on the weekend.

Also Tuesday, a virus that brought down computer systems in Canada also affected some computers of Ontario's emergency response system dealing with the aftermath of the blackout. The virus was of the self-spreading kind known as a "worm."

Dr James Young, the Ontario commissioner of public safety, said the problem was "making our job more difficult."

Thousands of government workers stayed home a second straight day to comply with government pleas to slash electrical use. Among the major companies complying with the request were automaker giants Ford, General Motors and DaimlerChrysler.

The chief executive officer of Toronto's electricity company, Toronto Hydro, said the experience showed that people must learn to use less electricity.

"It is pretty clear that many people could cut back their use of power pretty substantially if they wanted to," Courtney Pratt said. "It is a question in many ways of changing mental mindsets about: `It is out there and I am going to use it, use it as much as I want.' "

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