In a media presentation on January 9 Toronto Hydro described the December 21-22 ice storm that hit the city as “the most disruptive incident” the company had ever faced. At its peak power was lost to approximately 300,000 (over 40%) of the utility’s customers. The utility handled more than 100 times its normal call volume. With 800 traffic signals out of order, over 500 wires down and 160 locations requiring a police presence, it was a daunting logistical challenge. As of January 9 Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines estimated that the storm cost the company $12.9 million, an amount that includes about $1 million of lost revenue, $10 million for labour and another $2 million in materials. A public opinion poll published earlier this month suggested that 82% of Torontonians were satisfied with Toronto Hydro’s response.

Toronto Hydro has announced that an expert panel will oversee a review of the utility’s response to the storm. It will be chaired by David McFadden, who has served on Ontario’s Distribution Sector Review Panel and as one of Canada’s representatives on the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force that investigated the 2003 blackout that affected the U.S. northeast and Ontario. He was also appointed by the Government of Jamaica to co-lead an investigation into a July 2006 blackout that cut off electricity to the entire country. David is a partner at Gowlings and chair of the firm’s International Management Committee.

Also on the Panel is Sean Conway of Ryerson University’s Centre for Urban Energy. Sean is former Chair of the Ontario Centres of Excellence. Sean served in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario for 28 years, from 1975 to 2003. He served in the cabinet of Premier David Peterson (1985-90), holding the positions of Minister of Education, Minister of Colleges and Universities, Minister of Mines and Government House Leader. He is also a former energy critic for the Official Opposition. Sean is a Public Policy Advisor to Gowlings.

Joe Pennachetti, Toronto’s City Manager, will also sit on the Panel. He oversees 40 major services to a population of 2.7 million and is a Certified General Accountant.

The Panel will oversee a review that is being conducted by Davies Consulting, a leading energy industry consulting form with expertise in emergency management.