Feb 14, 2022
Ottawa’s energy ecosystem is unique, with long-standing localized and green generation. In fact, did you know Hydro Ottawa is the largest municipally-owned producer of clean, renewable energy in Canada? Bryce Conrad, Hydro Ottawa President and CEO, joins Dan and Rebecca to discuss the company’s commitment to making its entire operations net zero by 2030.
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Dan Seguin 00:06
This is the energy. The podcast that helps you better understand the fast changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders, and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, and my co host, Rebecca Schwartz, as we explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry.
Dan Seguin 00:30
Hey, everyone, welcome back.
Rebecca Schwartz 00:32
To refresh our listeners, or in case they missed it in December, our organization Hydro Ottawa announced that it will make its entire operations net zero by the time 2030 rolls around. And by my calculations, that's only eight years away. In order to achieve net zero, you have to remove as much greenhouse gas emissions or more than you're currently putting into the atmosphere.
Dan Seguin 00:54
Now, to put it into further perspective, Ottawa's electricity grid stretches 1100 square kilometers. It's essentially Ottawa's largest machine. Add to that our fleet of bucket trucks and other vehicles, various work centers across the city and more than 700 employees, you start to realize that this is no small endeavor.
Rebecca Schwartz 01:23
Our President and CEO likes to call it our moonshot after the Apollo 11 mission where we sent a man to the moon in the 1960s.
Dan Seguin 01:31
Actually, the timeline to achieve both is pretty similar. President Kennedy announced his ambitious goal to Congress in 1961. By 1969, a man was on the surface of the moon. In those short, eight years, it must have seemed impossible to many.
Rebecca Schwartz 01:54
While Canada's putting as much pollution into the atmosphere, unfortunately, as it did a generation ago- 730 million tons to be exact. Canada's electricity industry is one of the cleanest in the world. In fact, 80% of the electricity in Canada comes from non emitting resources.
Dan Seguin 02:11
And Ontario's electricity sector is even more impressive. With 94% of its electricity we produce completely free of greenhouse gas emissions, some experts say that fully decarbonizing the electricity industry will be the key climate change solution for Canada.
Rebecca Schwartz 02:31
Here's today's big question. What will it take to get Hydro Ottawa to net zero by 2030? And what inspired the decision to be the first municipally owned utility in Canada to do it? We've been building an impressive resume here at Hydro Ottawa when it comes to environmental sustainability. Most recently, we even won the Canadian Electricity Association's Sustainability Electricity Company Designation in 2021. But we'll get into all of that with our special guest later today.
Dan Seguin 02:59
Bryce Conrad has been the President and CEO of Hydro Ottawa since 2011. Under his leadership, Hydro Ottawa has become one of the most innovative utilities in Canada, regularly winning awards and accolades for its customer oriented services and its commitment to environmental sustainability. It is the largest municipally owned producer of clean, renewable energy in Ontario. He's also my boss, Bryce, welcome to the show. Now Hydro Ottawa recently made a net zero by 2030 commitment, and there's a lot of momentum in that direction in corporate Canada. Generally, what's your view on its importance? What makes for truly credible and meaningful net zero commitment?
Bryce Conrad 03:53
Collectively, we, as a society, have been talking about this for, quite frankly, too long. I mean, when I did this presentation to the board, any reference back to Kyoto and the Kyoto protocols, and then Paris, Montreal, I mean, every four or five years, they get around to having another meeting and collectively agreed to do something, but never do anything. So there's a whole lot of talk and nothing else much. So, from our perspective, as a company, it's time to start taking responsibility for our own house, and the impact that we have collectively on our own environments. That we can and will do better, that we can be part of the solution. And, I'd say this, as someone who spent time in the federal government, who's worked 15 years working in federal provincial relations. I mean, the answer to climate change is not going to come from some magical central government telling us what to do or what not to do. It's not going to come from a provincial government. The solutions are going to be local, they're going to come from the ground up, and they're going to be you and me doing the right thing each and every day. Changing our own behavior, recognizing that the behavior, that the path that we're on today is unsustainable, and being willing to make those changes. I love the idea that there's still some expectation that there is going to be some sort of savior that's going to come in and fix everything for us. And if you look at Jeff Bezos, you look at Elon Musk, I mean, the two wealthiest men in the world and they're trying to get off the planet faster than they can stay on the planet. So, by building rocket ships and stuff, so the answer is not there. What I do like about this time, what I do think is different this time, is, for the first time, at least from my perception, the first time is that it's not simply going to be the government's making commitments. You're actually starting to see the private sector come to the table with money and solutions. When you see people like Larry Fink, and you see OMERS, in the big pension funds, and the big banks, the big insurance companies - When you start seeing these massive multibillion dollar business, stepping up to the table and saying, we're gonna put our money where our mouth is, and we're gonna start to change behavior. That's kind of special. That's the secret sauce, it's necessary to solve this problem. And the perfect example, and I've used this before, and I'll use it again, is the largest public sector pension fund in the world, is a Norwegian pension fund, which effectively is the Canada Pension Fund for Norwegians. And they've got 1.6 $1.8 trillion under management. And the source of that funds, the genesis of that fund was essentially selling the offshore oil rights for Norwegian oil development in the North Sea. And now they're saying we no longer will invest in companies that produce fossil fuel. So, isn't it ironic that a company that a pension fund, the largest in the world, that's sourced began via fossil fuel money is now turning their attention to green technologies? That's new. That's different. That's something we haven't seen before.
Dan Seguin 07:49
Okay, here's a follow up question. Can you maybe expand on what you mean, when you say net zero is our 'moonshot'? What is behind the comparison of the Apollo 11 mission that inspired you? So on YouTube, you can go back and dial up all these old speeches and watch them and watch them anew. But look, if you go back to JFK in 1961, so he does this speech before for the joint House and Senate. And, it's not a long speech. So I'd encourage everyone to go watch it. There's, it's about a minute long, the clip that that's relevant anyway. And in that speech, he says, we are going to go to the moon before the end of the decade. So he's doing this in '61. Obviously, they went to the moon 69. So as part of that, he does something that people don't do enough of these days, right, he literally says - We're going to go to the moon. So that's our objective. And I have no idea how we're going to get there. I'm paraphrasing, obviously, I have no idea how we're going to get there, the technology doesn't exist, the fuel doesn't exist, the booster rocket technology doesn't exist. And that kind of the capsule necessary to get someone to and from the moon doesn't exist today. So he's making this bold announcement without having, and then acknowledging that he doesn't know how they're going to do it. And, and I thought that's just so, quite frankly, refreshing in this day and age where everything is kind of pre packaged, right. Like, we know what we're going to do this next two years, but we already know that we've got it in the bag, and here's how it's going to be done. I like the idea of setting the big, hairy, audacious goal for the company and saying, I've said this to the management team. I have no clue how we're gonna get there. I don't know. Like, I I know what we need to start doing. But I don't know what the answer is. But I work with some of the smartest people in the game and I know that if they're empowered to do this, and we put our minds to this, we will do this. Like, that's what Kennedy counted on '61. And that's lo and behold what happened. So, when I liken it to the moonshot, it's just that- it's the it's the big, hairy, audacious goal, without any real clear roadmap as to how to accomplish that goal. And I think quite frankly, that's what served us best is when we don't necessarily have the answers, we have to make up. We have to figure our way through this stuff. And I see that every day of the company, right? If you look back at what we how we handle the tornadoes, if you look back at the way we handle the floods, if you look at the way we handle our system. Yeah, there's a lot of prescriptive stuff. Yes, there's a lot of this is how we do things. But there are a lot of days we throw out the rulebook, you throw out the manual, and you have to figure your way forward. And that's when this company is at its best. So, that's the that's the moonshot.
Rebecca Schwartz 10:53
Now, how concerned are you about climate change and environmental damage? What does the energy transition mean for Hydro Ottawa as it exists today, and for you personally, as we look to the future?
Bryce Conrad 11:05
So let's just state categorically that climate change is real. As I sit here, today, it's like minus 27,000 degrees outside. People go 'oh if it is global warming why is it so damn cold', and of course, you just want to smack people that say things like that. But, God's honest truth is climate change is not about the day to day weather, it's about weather patterns. It's about how, in the past, we've had wind storms and ice storms, we've had eight tornadoes, including one in downtown to Nepean. We've had a one in 100 year flood, followed by a one in 1000 year flood. We've had heat waves that have stretched and taxed our system. And all of this is just like, quite frankly, within the past five years. So that's what climate change means. It means unpredictable, changing, dramatically changing weather patterns. And if you run a utility, like I do, or like we do,you don't like that. You know, our infrastructure is built to withstand X. It's not built to withstand x plus 30%, or x plus 50%. So, you know, when a windstorm comes through, you know, the infrastructure is ready to sustain winds up to 90 miles an hour or something like that? Well, you know, we all saw what happened when tornadoes came through, you know, 130 miles, or 160 miles an hour, right? Those poles snap like twigs. That's what climate change means. So, you know, it's terrifying. It's absolutely terrifying. And you know, it's something that we have to start to build into our plans as to how do we build better in the future? So are we building our infrastructure to withstand 90 mile an hour winds? Are we building them to withstand 150 mile an hour winds? Well, there's a cost difference to that. Obviously, the answer is, yeah, we've got to do a better job of building stronger, more resilient infrastructure. If you saw during the floods, our Chaudiere facility, our generating asset, Chaudiere Falls. You know, you were seeing for the first time in history, all 50 of the gates of the ring dam were open. I mean, and there was more, I think it was two Olympic swimming pools passing through the gates every second. The waterfall, the water, the speed, and the waterfall was faster than the Niagara Falls, like, I mean, these are things that shouldn't be happening in downtown Ottawa, but have happened, you know, three times since I've been here. And that's 10 years. So if anyone wants to have a debate about whether or not climate change is real, call me up. Let's have that conversation. Because it's, it's very real, and it's going to dramatically impact our future. In terms of the energy transition, I think I talked a bit about it. But, you know, when we bottomed out, and look at what our future looks like, 50 years from now, our infrastructure looks fundamentally different than it does today. It's in fundamentally different places than it is today. You know, we're gonna rely upon artificial intelligence, machine learning. You know, each and every one of those, like, everything will be censored up. So, you know, the idea is that, as opposed to us rolling a truck to fix something that's broken or down, we can sort of simply reroute it from the control center. So yes, we still have to get out there and fix what's broken but for you, the customer of Hydro Ottawa, you actually won't notice the impact because the power will have switched over to another source instantaneously. That's the goal. I think, you know, you'll see more and more people, and I've been telling people this for 10 years, right? The day in and the age of, you know, my grandmother who used to sort of wait patiently in the mailbox for the bill to come in so she could open it up that day, write a check, and put it back in the mailbox the next day. Those days are gone. And those people are gone. The people that are our customers today, they want to interact, they want more, they want to understand how they can measure utility, they want to understand how they can manage their energy consumption. Particularly if you start to put the onus on them with respect to climate change and what they're doing. So they're going to want to know, like, you know, do I plug my electric car in? If I plug it in? Now? You know, do I wait and charge it between two and 4am? Or do I charge it now? You know, can I charge my house with my car, you know, they're going to be part of this and will be part of the solution. But they're also gonna have expectations of us as a provider to be transparent, authentic, reliable, managing the costs. So that energy transition is going to be huge for us. And it's only going to get more complicated. And I haven't even talked about the downside, right? I mean, the more you open the kimono, and you allow the customers to sort of engage with you directly, the more opportunity you're giving for nefarious actors to sort of engage in the things that we don't want to be happening, things like cybersecurity.
Dan Seguin 16:54
Okay, let's talk energy now, Bryce. We've got an interesting energy ecosystem here in Ottawa with long standing localized and green generation. We had distributed energy resources before it was a thing. Is there a model here that can be applied more broadly?
Bryce Conrad 17:13
Yeah, you know what, so I always like to think that Hydro Ottawa was at the cutting edge of these sorts of things. So, we were doing distributed energy resources before for the term for it. We were cool before we knew it was cool. So short answer, yeah, we've got massive generating assets in our backyard, which theoretically, can be used as distributed energy resources. As we go forward, my expectation is that. And I'd be the first to admit that having Chaudiere and the big generating assets is a massive advantage for the company. But, where we haven't done so well with our customers is with respect to some of the other DER activity. Like, the local homeowner that wants to put up solar, solar panels and stuff like that. And the God's honest truth is, those little installations are a real pain. They're a pain to manage. They're all kind of one-offs. Every one of them is individualized, everyone requires a lot of time and attention. But that's not the right answer. The right answer is we should be treating these things as gifts. We should be doing everything in our power to support them and roll them out even further. So, my expectation is over the course of the next 5-10 years, you're going to see us serve as a catalyst role for further DERs in the community. So that's the first one I would say is if you're waiting to install solar panels, or you need to - you want t- - give us a call, we're here to help you support it. But one of the projects that I think stands out is kind of unique, certainly in Canada, and one that we're particularly proud of, just given the role we played, is down at the Zibi community. Which is, for those who don't know, sort of, well, it's on an island. No man's land between the two provinces. So half of it is in Quebec, the other half is in Ontario. Andthe developer down there, kudos to them. They are partners in dream properties, I guess, four or five years ago, six years ago with the idea of using these developments, which is 34 acres on the waterfront and turning it into a one planet, one world kind of community where it's zero carbon. You know, they could have just asked us to run pipe or run power lines, but we thought, here's an opportunity for us to get in on the ground and see how this actually works. So it's up, it's running, condos are being built for people living there today. There's the heat and cooling - the heat coming from effluent discharge under the Kruger paper plant over on the Gatineau side. So. essentially this is a waste product that's being pumped back into the pipes so we can heat the homes. Conversely, in the summer they're using the Ottawa River to sort of cool it. And again, it's it's a real, full scale model of what a zero carbon energy system would look like. And there's no reason you can't take that same model and apply it on a broader scale and even broader scale. Which is something that we're keen to replicate where, if and when we get the opportunity, but it's truly unique and we're quite proud of it. Again, we got in on the ground floor and said, this is something that we're interested in, so how can we help you. And full credit to the development team, they saw the opportunity to work with us and gave us an opportunity.
Dan Seguin 21:22
Now, a lot of focus is on national targets. But here in Ottawa, we see a central role for ourselves in working with the city, customers, and other stakeholders to help drive down emissions. How much of climate action needs to be local? How important do you see Hydro Ottawa's role being to affect change?
Bryce Conrad 21:46
Yeah, well, like I said earlier, I think if we're going to stand around waiting for the Federal government or the province, or some other larger national entity, to sort of tell us how to solve this problem, I think we'll still be standing around waiting for a few years. So, my perception is that all politics is local. And that the solution to this problem is local. And I just gave you an example of the Zibi community, where that is a local project that has been done. It's been done locally, not because someone said at the Government of Canada," thou shalt build a zero carbon community". They did it because it was the right thing to do. And they felt they could do it in that environment. Again, no direction from the feds of the province. It was purely local. So the answer, as I said, is local. It's going to be local, it's going to be you and me and Rebecca, and everybody else coming up and making decisions on our own, that we want to leave this place in a better place for our kids. It's that little expression, ou Chair reminds me a lot on a daily basis. You know, leave the campsite in a better place than you found it kind of thing, right! So, that's our goal. That's, that's my goal coming to Hydro Ottawa was to leave the company in a better place that I found it. That should be our collective goals. So, the City of Ottawa has declared a climate emergency, they have announced their targets, they're ramping up a series of climate change initiatives to meet those targets. Our job is to support them, they're our shareholders. So, if we can bring our money, our expertise, to help support them deploying carbon free energy solutions, or just things that can help curb carbon, then that's what we'll do. I think we've got a pretty good track record, quite frankly, the fact that we've announced that we're going to be carbon neutral by 2030 is one thing to say, but we're doing it and we're on our way. And that garnered the attention of other organizations in town who were saying, well, if Hydro Ottawa was going to do this, maybe they can help us do the same thing. Now, is 2030 an audacious goal for some of them? Yeah, it's probably unrealistic for some but, the point is, at least we're doing it and obviously it would be inconceivable for the City of Ottawa model to get there by 2030. But isn't it nice to know that they can count on a partner that is going to be carbon neutral by 2030 to help them achieve their objectives going forward? So look, we're an innovative company. We're the largest producer of green renewable energy in Canada. We've got a first rate utility, and we've got an energy solutions company that's there to support our customers, our businesses, and our shareholders. And we will deploy all three to that benefit. So, I think my expectation is that as we go into this next municipal election, climate change will be -if it's not going to be number one or number two, on the agenda, I'll be shocked. Like, I honestly think it's risen to that level of importance for the citizens of Ottawa. So yeah, taxes are always there, but I think climate change is going to be right up there with it.
Rebecca Schwartz 25:33
So Bryce, as you know, we're in the distinctive position at Hydro Ottawa of having cross border assets in Ontario, Quebec and New York. How important is it that Canada's electricity system, as a whole, becomes more integrated across provincial boundaries? And what key steps can we expect will be taken in that direction?
Rebecca Schwartz 25:53
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's a great question, Rebecca. And I think what people don't really appreciate is just how, how amazing the electricity grid actually is. It is a fully integrated machine that works from one side of the continent to the other side. I mean, it's just truly magical that you can sort of walk into your room and turn on a light 99.999% of the time and that lights are gonna come on. And that's a credit to the people that built the system in the first place. So, the good news is that it is a fully integrated grid, Canada - US. Unfortunately, it's a little too north-south for my liking at the moment. Most of the grid runs north-south. So, power gets bought and transferred between Quebec and Manitoba. But, if you look at sort of the large clean energy supplies coming out of Quebec, most of them are directed south, into the US for export markets. Going forward, that's obviously going to have to change. Canada is capable. If you look at the Ontario grid, we're 90%, clean and green. When you look at something like Saskatchewan, or Nova Scotia or Alberta, which still heavily reliant on coal or natural gas or other fossil fuels, the answer is we have to share amongst our brotherhood, so that we have to get that clean power from Quebec and Ontario and British Columbia going east- west. And I should say, Yukon, Northwest Territories the same way- but access to more difficult but still access to sort of clean, green renewable. The point, that system has to sort of be brought to bear on a national level, so that the inter ties between Ontario and Quebec are more plentiful. The power gets shifted into Nova Scotia, so that we can, so that our energy system can be truly clean and green. And it shouldn't take that long. Unfortunately, what's gonna get in the middle of that is your classic nimbyism, right. Where no one wants to build or have these transmission lines running through their backyard kind of thing, for obvious reasons. But we built the railroad and the railboard built the country, St. Lawrence Seaway. We've done some,incredibly impressive things from an infrastructure perspective, and I just think that's the answer going forward. We need to sort of build that infrastructure at a national level. So that, again, the power from Churchill Falls is flowing to Regina. And in Edmonton and Calgary and, yeah, that's my answer.
Dan Seguin 28:49
Okay, let's talk capacity. Getting to net zero by 2050 will mean roughly doubling clean electricity production in Canada. By one estimate, that's clean energy Canada. What do we need to be doing today to make that achievable?
Bryce Conrad 29:08
Well, again, the first step in the 12 step program is admitting that you have a problem. So, we have a problem. If you just step back and look at the politics, we can't build a pipeline in this country to save our lives. Now, whether you think that's the right thing or not, it's, it's a proxy for what's necessary. So okay, we're not going to build a pipeline, but you need to build big transmission lines east to west or west east or vice versa. So yeah, if you're gonna double the electricity, the clean electrical energy, which is eminently doable. We've got plenty of sources and we've got lots of supply, we've got more thatwe can tap. You just need to sort of start to work together, collectively. Province to province, federal government with the provinces, to sort of make this happen. And again, I have hopes, because at the end of the day we're one country, we built some amazing infrastructure - the St. Lawrence Seaway is a perfect example. And, you know, the rail lines, we've done this stuff before. There's no reason we can't do it again. Faced with a face of the future where the costs of climate change are real. And they're only getting higher on an annual basis. It's only a matter of time before the politicians wake up and realize that this is the solution, and they have to do something, and they have to act. And it's in our best interest to do so as a nation. So, I'm hopeful.
Dan Seguin 30:55
Now, Bryce, I'm curious, what are the three most innovative sustainability projects that you're most proud of right now? That maybe people don't know Hydro Ottawa is doing or involved with?
Bryce Conrad 31:10
Sure. I can probably give you four. And I know, yes, you asked for three. But I'll give you four! The first, that I don't think people fully appreciate, is how significant our generating assets actually are. We're not talking about small run of the mill, solar facilities, we're talking about large, 150 megawatts of clean green, renewable energy - on both sides of the border, capable of powering well over 100,000 homes. We've grown that production by 500% since 2012. So we are a real player in this business. And these are assets that are carbon free. So, talking about future proofing your generating fleet, right, these are the things that everybody's gonna want when they realize that there is no such thing as clean coal. Or when they realize that fossil fuels are not the answer going forward. So, we have these assets and they're spectacular. And I'd encourage anybody in Ottawa, if you want to see some of them in action, to go check out the ones at Chaudiere Falls, which are a dam. Rebecca, I'm not sure if you've seen it but Dan sure has. I mean, just breathtaking to watch, particularly in the summer -wouldn't go there today when it's minus 12,000 degrees because the wind coming off would be horrifying -but lovely in the sun. If you wait for Bluesfest, there's no better place to listen to the music than Chaudiere Falls! You get all the benefits of Bluesfest without paying or dealing with crowds. Anyway, so that's number one, our generating fleet. Number two is the thing I spoke about earlier, the Zibi community funding. Again, 34 acres of prime development down there, carbon free, and we were part of that solution to make it happen. And hoping to replicate it making bigger, better elsewhere. But just taking something which was otherwise a science project or a concept and sort of bringing it to reality, something that we're immensely proud of. And I think Ottawans will be as well. The third, just because my kids love it, is we've got this, this new substation going out, or transformer station going out in south Ottawa in the Barrhaven area, which is growing like a weed, obviously. With 10 or 12% growth every year. So, we had to build the new station out there. And we bought the necessary land for the station. It's called Cambrian station. It's going online sometime between now and June, I think. In fact, it's being tested as I speak. But the point is, we bought enough land up there that we've been able to donate 15 acres for a pollinator meadow to bring back the butterflies and plant some trees. So again, no real cost to us other than the land that was used that we bought for the transformer station itself. But here's another opportunity for us to do the right thing. And last but not least, the fourth one, which I'm very proud of is the role that we played in the conversion of the streetlights. So, Ottawa had high pressure sodium street lights, like every other municipality. And over the course of four years, we were able to convert all 56,000 lights to LEDs, saving the city a massive amount of money somewhere in the range of $6 million a year. And those are continuous savings, right? So, that's right to the bottom line. So these are street lights that are better, they're all IP addressable so, if the Sens win the Stanley Cup, we can flash red and white, whatever we want. The point is, they're good for a long time. And those energy savings will pay for them. Well, they already paid for the project once over already! Now, all the savings go right through to the taxpayer, so I am very proud of us.
Rebecca Schwartz 35:42
Another thing we're doing is targeting an entirely non emitting grid by 2035. What sort of changes will that mean for electricity, utilities and customers?
Rebecca Schwartz 35:52
Yeah, this is going back to the moonshot, Rebecca. In the sense that we're talking about it. And obviously, we're committing to do these sorts of things, but we don't necessarily have a clear cut perspective on how it's going to be done. So look, as I said earlier, in Ontario, the grids 92%, clean and green right now. The other 8% is natural gas. So yeah, we need to turn the grid into an automated grid by 2035. utilities like ourselves are going to have to invest in trying to find ways of managing line losses and just transmission. You know, the transmission of electricity from point A to point B emits ghgs, and that needs to be curtailed. So how do you do that? Well, I mean, there's technology that hopefully we brought to bear. I mean, today's minds are better than the lions 10-15 years ago. So I mean, I think the answer there is going to be technological change. The good news is we have a lot of smart, smart, smart people. Both academically within utilities, within the association's working on trying to solve this problem. But yeah, it' a challenge for us. And I don't necessarily have the right answer. I don't have an answer for you right now. As I explained to my Board, the iPhone is 12 years old this year. So, imagine what life -think back to where we were in 2008. I can't even imagine what my life, what our lives would be like if we didn't have an iPhone in our pocket, right? So, that's a technological change. That's made a fundamental difference in our life and in our society. Some good, some bad. But surely, the hope is that technological change will help us get to an automated grid by 2035 in an affordable way.
Dan Seguin 38:05
Now back in 2019, Hydro Ottawa opened its new office building, centralizing your operations, while ensuring a new building with a greener footprint. Can you tell us about this decision to move and how you've incorporated sustainability into your building operations?
Bryce Conrad 38:24
I joined Hydro Ottawa on August 15 2011. On August 16th 2011, we had a Board meeting, where they authorized the company to move forward with what is called ubiquitously The Real Estate Strategy. Which was effectively: Look, you know, as a result of amalgamation we had buildings all over the place. We inherited Gloucester Hydro, Ottawa Hydro, Nepean Hydro and Kanata Hydro. So, we had all these buildings all over the place that we inherited. Some of them were in pretty good shape, others were absolute pig. Thinking of the one at Albion road would be the prime example. The point was there, they were in all the wrong places from an operational perspective. They were just in the wrong place. So we developed a plan and a strategy to sort of recapitalize our buildings, and we knew that, quite frankly, for every dollar I spent on Albion road, it was $1. I lost, because the value is not in the building, the value is in the land. I use the term value loosely. We made that decision and the Board exported it, the Ontario Energy Board, as part of our applications, endorsed the idea that we needed new facilities.So we launched the plan in 2014 with a couple of stutter steps along the way, trying to find the right lands. Finally we landed on the right places for us as a company. If you look at our headquarters we built, we opened in 2019. All the new buildings are built to LEED Gold standards. Both facilities have significant on site renewable energy, they have solar facilities on sites. We didn't want them to be ostentatious or flashy, we wanted them to be functional. We want them to be low maintenance to the extent that we possibly could. We wanted to do what we could on our GHGs and also environmentalism. And that came directly from our employees. As we're doing the builds and designing, we're constantly reaching into our workforce to see what was important to them, what they want to see. One of the things everybody obviously wants to light. So, if you've been to the facilities, you know they're wide open, everybody has access to fresh, good quality air. Everyone has access to daylight for the most part. So they actually turned out fantastic. It's exactly what we want. So, we installed a whole bunch of different environmental things. Solar solar charging stations at our headquarters, we've got electrical charging stations at the headquarters, we've got a lot of reduction facilities in place. So I think we're using 55 or 60% less water than we otherwise used to. We use the gray water return that gets used back into the gardens and stuff like that. I think we're diverting 90-95% of our non hazardous waste. Our kitchen supplier has access to a dehydrator which allows them to dehydrate the food waste, reduce, and to use it as compost. From the design perspective, health and wellness was factored into it from day one. So we've got a, I wouldn't say world class gym facility, but it's pretty damn good. Got lots of ergonomically designed workspaces, the meeting rooms are flexible, we've got collaboration spaces everywhere. So the whole point was, I think Steve Jobs used to refer to them as collision points, where an employee could walk would bump into another employee and an idea would germinate. That's kind of the way we built the place. So throughout the building, there's collaboration spaces, both inside and outside. We've even got a walking path on our property. So, all of those have been done because we're the right things to do. They were the right things to do now. Post pandemic, or in the middle of a pandemic, I will tell you, all these open spaces are not our friends. There are points where you'd like to put up some walls again and close the doors, but it is what it is. And we'll get past this and get back to normal. And we'll be happy with what we got.But, facilities are great! We love them. I honestly haven't heard anybody complain about facilities which if you work in the utility industry is shocking.
Rebecca Schwartz 43:47
It seems every couple of months, we're hearing about an innovative new example of electrification of other economic sectors. Here in Ottawa, we're seeing multiple modes of public transportation transitioning to electric, for example: e scooters - Which I have to say, I use a lot in our super fun - to everything else, such as chainsaws and lawn mowers seem to be up for grabs when it comes to electrification. What's the coolest example of electrification that you've come across Bryce?
Bryce Conrad 44:18
I got like 15 answers to this one. So I love those electric scooters. I used them for the first time when I was in San Diego, whipping along the waterfront in San Diego on an electric scooter was one of the coolest things in the world. Of course I didn't look so graceful I fell, but so be it. So those are really cool. I've seen electric surfboards, which I think are really cool, too. I'm terrified to even conceive of how to get on one, but it's this kind of a wakeboard that you get elevated up in the air. So, you're you're surfing on top of the water, and it's purely electric powered, but that looks pretty cool. My neighbor here has one. I'm jealous when I see him out there on it. But honestly, the coolest one, quite frankly, is still the cars. There used to be a car that came out of the US military, it was called a Hummer. And Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he was governor of California, had a Hummer and he made his electric. A great personal expense to him, I'm sure. But these are cars that have a massive big V 12 engine. When you turn on the gas, and you turn the car on, you could literally see the ozone layer deplete behind you, that's how much these things were. And they were just pigs on gas. I don't even know whether they would get up to a gallon, probably like three kilometers to a gallon of gas back in the day. But they were just enormous. And so much like everything else, they went the way in the dodo bird, they got sold off and then shut down. Well, then lo and behold, they're coming back. So 2022, is the first year of the electric Hummer. And it is 1000 horsepower, it weighs 10,000 pounds, or close to 10,000 pounds. Tt goes zero to 60 in 2.8 seconds. And again, it weighs 10,000 pounds! Like it's amazing what they're capable of doing. It's going to have a range of 580 kilometers or whatever, whatever it will be. But just the sheer improvements in these electric vehicles is - I mean, Dan knows he's got two of them! - But we're a long way from when these first electric cars came out. Hydro Ottawa I had one of the very first electric cars and I would tell you, you know, cuz I used to park next to it in the garage. There would be weeks that go by where I wouldn't see that car because it was in the garage being fixed or something was wrong. I drove it one day and my teenage daughter who's probably 13 at the time, was in the backseat thinking she's really cramped in the backseat, because the whole damn thing is a big battery. So you just think about where that car was relative to the cars that we're seeing out there today. And I'm not even talking about the Tesla's, I'm talking about, you know, the Hyundai's and sort of the traditional car makers, and the efforts that they're making in the space. Like, it's truly exceptional what they're doing and full credit to them. Dan referenced the Audi electric e tron, I mean, it's the coolest car in the world! And all these cars are just incredible. So my answer is yeah, as I was saying with the e-scooters, at least I don't fall out of my car!
Dan Seguin 48:01
With Hydro Ottawa customers, making it very clear that climate change is important to them and they want you to continue being part of the solution and pushing the organization to do more. How are you planning to assist customers in reducing their carbon footprint?
Bryce Conrad 48:21
It's a great question. And it'spart of the moonshot, right. I don't actually know what they need until, until we start dialing this in and getting a workout. But what I know is that they want to interact with this differently. They want information, they want access to information in a way that nobody else has ever asked us, right? They are interactive. It used to be that the average Canadian thought of their electrical company, nine minutes a year, when they're paying the bills. That's not the case anymore. When they're making decisions with respect to appliances, they're thinking about their consumption, and they're making decisions with respect to their cars and they're calling us. One of our affiliates, Envari, one of the services we offer is electric vehicle readiness assessments for small commercial and condo buildings. Because for example for Dan to live in his house and install car chargers, no problem. But if you're living in a condo corporation with 400 units, how do you build out the electric car charging asset? Is a bill to the house to the person that owns the electric car? Or are they sort of shared resources? So I mean, these are some of the challenges that we're dealing with and our customers are dealing with firsthand. So, our job is to help. Our job is to try to help navigate those issues and concerns and provide them with the information. And sometimes they'll make the right decision. Sometimes they'll make the wrong decision, but at least they're making an informed decision if nothing else. So that's an example. The electric bus initiative here in Ottawa, is another one that we're quite proud of. We're gonna partner with the City of Ottawa to sort of deploy and roll out 400+ electric vehicle buses. So if you've ever seen these buses, I mean, they are sleek, they are noiseless. They are, quite frankly, enjoyable to ride. You don't have that diesel smell, that's everywhere. You're not on Slater street looking down a canyon of diesel spewing buses anymore. So, those are all the things that we're going to do to help our community and our customers. And quite frankly, they're probably 15,000 other things that we're going to be doing as we get into this fight. As we get into this and start climbing this challenge or responding to this challenge, we're going to find other things that they're going to want. And what I do know is that we've got a good brand, we've got social license within our community. If they are going to turn to anybody, they are going to turn to us for solutions, and it's our job to help them.
Rebecca Schwartz 50:58
So Bryce, as a community asset, will Hydro Ottawa pursue netzero, outside the confines of its own operations? And if so, what's your plan in terms of playing such an instrumental role in the broader progress of Ottawa towards becoming netzero? And or any other sorts of electrification programs?
Bryce Conrad 51:20
Yeah, yeah, I mean, let's be clear, that's one of the reasons we're doing a netzero commitment. We made a commitment and the Board was very clear, we're not just doing this so that we can feather our own cap, we're not doing the sit here and put a banner that says mission accomplished in 2030. We're going to do this because we want to support our community in our city in moving to being netzero, whether that by 2040, or 2050, we want to get there. Hydro Ottawa actually becomes a catalyst to helping them achieve these things. And that means, you know, partnering with the city on their energy evolution file, working with the city on the electric bus stuff I talked about. Helping them look at their municipal buildings and say, okay, you know, the Nepean sportsplex - is it time for this thing to go through a deep retrofit so that we can sort of make it more energy efficient? I mean, the city's got massive real estate holdings, and a lot of buildings that predate me and predate you and predate us, which are in dire need of retrofitting. It's the low hanging fruit, isn't it. We've swapped out the light bulbs already. Like for us to make a difference and to sort of hit those targets that the city has set for itself we got to start doing some real meaningful stuff. Like, we got to start doing some deep retrofits to buildings we got to start doing with the city on the bus, you gotta start doing some big bold things. And we're there to help them do that. So the true answer to your question, Rebecca, is yeah, we're there. We're there. We'll be there. We'll be partnering with them. We'll use our technology. We'll use our budget if necessary.
Bryce Conrad 53:04
Okay mon ami. How about we close off with some rapid fire questions? Since you've already been a guest on our program? We've come up with some special new ones for you, Bryce, are you ready?
Bryce Conrad 53:17
Dan Seguin 53:19
What are you reading right now? Bryce?
Bryce Conrad 53:21
It's a book by Congressman Jamie Raskin. It's called Unthinkable but January 6, last year, I guess. So Jamie Raskin is a Congressman from Maryland whose son tragically committed suicidelike days before January six. And then he, Jamie Raskin, went on to serve as the the head of the impeachment proceedings against former President Trump as a result January 6, so it's a book about that. So that's really depressing, but it's a fantastic book and terrifying at the same time. But I just finished reading the book by Mark Carney which I recommend to anybody and everybody I thought was really really well done. So if you haven't read that should read that too. Little more cheery.
Dan Seguin 54:13
Now, what would you name your boat if you had one?
Bryce Conrad 54:18
So, the short answer is I think all boats should be called the Enterprise. But I actually saw a boat on the and the Rideau, it was parked in front of the convention center this year. It was just a massive boat. And the boat's name was Size Matters, which was pretty funny. I'll stick with Enterprise!
Dan Seguin 54:43
Wondering if you could share with us who is someone that you truly admire?
Bryce Conrad 54:49
I mean, look, how can you not admire somebody like Nelson Mandela or you know, I think Winston Churchill is probably the greatest leader the world has ever seen. So out I'll go with Winston Churchill on Nelson Mandela and leave it there.
Dan Seguin 55:03
Now, what is the closest thing to real magic that you've witnessed?
Bryce Conrad 55:09
I haven't a clue, pass.
Dan Seguin 55:12
What has been the biggest challenge to you personally, since the pandemic?
Bryce Conrad 55:17
Before the pandemic, I probably logged, I don't know, 75,000 miles a year on the plane flying from one place to another. A lot of it out of it for meetings and stuff, but the lack of travel, the lack of contact, from a professional perspective, Whether it was going to CS Week or Distribute Tech, or any of these other meetings, you go to them and you'd come back kind of rejuvenated on the one hand, but also kind of inspired by the things that we were doing relative to our peers. And then you'd always pick up one or two little things that you thought the answer was cool. I wish we could do something like that. And quite frankly, it's been two years since I've been able to do that. And, you know, Zoom calls are great, but they just don't capture the same, you don't get the same benefit. Right. So I would say that, obviously, and just just day to day social interaction, it'd be nice to actually be able to have people over without worrying about whether they've been vaccinated and boostered. And all that nonsense, but I'm hopeful.
Dan Seguin 56:30
We've all been watching a lot more Netflix and TV lately. What's your favorite movie or show?
Bryce Conrad 56:39
Well, the greatest movie of all time is the Godfather. So that's the one that no matter what time of day or night it's on, if I, if I flipped by and said it's on, I will watch whatever's left of it. So that's just it. And then my favorite TV show - sounds stereotypical - I love the Sopranos. I re-watched every Sopranos over the holidays, because David Chase came out with that new movie, The Saints of Newark, which I want to refresh my memory on all things Tony Soprano before I watch that.
Dan Seguin 57:10
And lastly, Bryce. What's really exciting you about the electricity sector right now?
Bryce Conrad 57:16
What’s not exciting, right? The biggest challenge facing our country are the people, this generation, this climate change and how we respond to climate change. And where else do you want to be in the middle of a fight then right in the middle of it, right? So climate change is the challenge and electricity as the answer. And the electrical sector is going to be front and center in that fight. So, I can't think of a better place to be. I, like lots of people, have had other opportunities presented to me over the last few years, but there's no place I'd rather be than at the head of Hydro Ottawa as we go into this climate change. In fact, I just think the opportunities are fantastic. I think the impact is fantastic if we can get it right. And I'm just bullish on the sector. I think our sector is the answer. Whether it be electric, transportation, or heating and cooling. It's going to be electricity. That's the answer. And it's just a question trying to find how do you fit it all together in a formal way that people can understand?
Rebecca Schwartz 58:35
Well, Bryce, that's it. We've reached the end of another episode of the thinkenergy podcast. Thanks again, Boss for joining us today. We hope you had a good time!
Bryce Conrad 58:44
Had a great time thanks, guys.
Dan Seguin 58:46
Thanks for tuning in for another episode of The think energy podcast. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review wherever you're listening. And to find out more about today's guests or previous episodes, visit think energy podcast.com I hope you'll join us again next time as we spark even more conversations about the energy of tomorrow.