Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) Tour: Friday Feb. 1, 2013

The Humber ASHRAE Student Branch was pleased to attend a tour of Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.  Located on Lakeshore Road W. in Mississauga, the IESO is an non-profit corporate entity responsible for forecasting provincial electricity consumption in the short-term.  The IESO then accepts bids from generators to supply for consumption needs, thus creating a market for electricity prices in Ontario.

A detailed presentation about IESO operations was given by Operations Manager Dave Devereaux.  This was followed up with the board-room curtains being opened, allowing the group to peer into the control centre below, where the “magic” happened.  We were awestruck by the amount of information displayed on the multiple computer screens.  It was like looking at tower-control at a major airport, or similar to the floor of a stock-market exchange.  Screens were seen with data detailing current electricity prices, forecast prices, electricity consumption, weather, and transmission line voltages, to name a few.  Behind the screens were the operators, who were working diligently to maintain the delicate system of supply and demand for electricity in real-time.

After being impressed by the scope of operations at the IESO, we were treated to a technical tour of the mechanical rooms that allowed this data centre to operate.  A presentation and tour were given by the Facilities Manager, Horst Schneider.  Mr. Schneider explained to the group how under his direction the IESO had achieved a LEED Silver EBOM rating.  Additionally, we were able to discover how the IESO maintains its uninterruptable power supply (UPS), with a system of batteries and diesel generators that are set to kick-in in event of a power failure.  This serves to keep the IESO at the forefront of emergency power management in the province, should the need arise.

In sum, the IESO tour was a great way for Humber ASHRAE students to gain perspective on the workings of a major component in Ontario’s electricity supply chain.  We were able to understand an integral part of what it takes to “keep the lights on”.  Thanks to the IESO for accommodating our group.


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