130 years ago, on September 12, 1887.

In 2017, the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation is looking back at its history after the first power switch was flipped in the city, 130 years ago, on September 12, 1887. (Photos courtesy of the OPUC)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

While the name may have changed over the years, the purpose has not, and for that reason, the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation is celebrating the 130 year mark since the switch was flipped on power in the city of Oshawa.

The date was September 12, 1887, and after a group of early businessmen and entrepreneurs in E.S. Edmonson, J.L. Guy and K.L. Murton got together to form the Oshawa Electric Company, they flipped on the lights for the first time in the small city of Oshawa, bringing to life 15 light posts and power for a few nearby businesses.

“The way we look at it is, all the successor companies are part of that history,” says Ivano Labricciosa, the president and CEO of the OPUC. “Serving electricity and power to the citizens of Oshawa has been around since the 1800s.”

Serving electricity and power to the citizens of Oshawa has been around since the 1800s.Originally, that power was operated in conjunction with the local flour mill, which previously sat on Lawrence Street, just south of Mill Street. For the most part, the original power was sourced from steam and augmented by a small water power plant powered by a dam in the Oshawa Creek.

At that time, power was only available during the nighttime hours between dusk and dawn, and sometimes, if the moon was bright enough, the power would be left off.

Tragedy struck in 1892 when the flour mill was destroyed in a fire. The power plant was eventually rebuilt, and then sold to the Stark Electric Co. out of Toronto. This phased in a new era for Oshawa’a lights as the arc lights were replaced with incandescent bulbs, upping Oshawa’s electric load to 600 kilowatts and serving approximately 400 customers.

It wasn’t until 1911, that power would be made available 24 hours a day, costing residents approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

In 1929, the first iteration of what would eventually become the OPUC was formed when a bylaw was passed by city council to purchase the electrical system at a cost of $310,000. The council also purchased the gas distribution network at the same time for $210,000. The year after, the first Public Utilities Commission was elected from the population of 25,000 people calling Oshawa home.

And the Oshawa power company has not always been in the business of power.

In 1959, after CN Rail stopped operating the city’s bus system, it was left to the PUC to operate after council authorized the purchase of the system, along with 21 buses, for $20,000. Also, in 1970, the OPUC began offering billing services to other entities, upping their production of paper bills to about 27,000 per month, 14,000 of which were for Oshawa, and 13,000 for other utilities.

Through the OPUC’s old computer dubbed “Hilda” they offered data services to other municipalities and even operated the city’s municipal election in 1970.

For Labricciosa and his team, branching out is nothing strange to them, having invested in both a fibre optic network in Durham, and solar energy management projects in recent years. However, it was interesting for him to see that this diversification is something the OPUC has always done.

In particular, last year saw the OPUC  took over the operation and management of Regent Park Energy Inc. in downtown Toronto, which provides the heating and cooling network to the 18 buildings that make up Regent Park, Canada’s largest social housing project.

“We always had this notion that we did services for other utilities,” Labricciosa says. “It’s got a lot of touch points to today’s issues.”

The lights were turned on for the first time in Oshawa September 12, 1887.  Use of electricity in Oshawa began when some enterprising citizens, E.S. Edmondson, J.L. Guy, and K.L. Murton created an arc lighting system for the little town and formed Oshawa Electric Light Company. Although they were met with a lack of local support for their endeavor they persevered to bring electricity to the small town of Oshawa.  Over the last 130 years there have been many changes and challenges for Oshawa Power.  It has been a fascinating and exciting evolution from just providing electricity to also providing water, transit, dark fibre and renewable energy to the residents of Oshawa.

Oshawa Power has always been on the forefront of change and continues to strive for industry “firsts”, all the while being community minded and a good citizen. We are proud of our heritage and legacy which explains a great deal of who we are – low rates, innovative, flexible and customer focussed.  We remain committed to our legacy that puts our customers first in everything we do, and will continue to keep in step with the energy needs of this dynamic community. Now 130 years later Oshawa Power is still locally owned and has had a long history of bringing Oshawa forward and it continues to make its mark in the industry as being a leader of innovation, a leader in customer service and satisfaction, a leader in renewable energy solutions and a financially responsible asset for our shareholder.  We look forward to a future where we will expand our role and continue to be a positive force in our community.

To look through some of our archives and learn more about Oshawa Power’s history please visit www.oshawapower.ca/timeline/

As we watched the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Oshawa Power employees took action and began to fundraise to contribute to the Harvey relief fund.  With Hurricane Irma close on Harvey’s heels set to cause even more damage, the call for help was received from the Florida utilities to help with the recovery effort and Oshawa Power immediately mobilized and sent the team.

Oshawa Power has joined with other Ontario partners and supplied three journeyman power lineman to aid in the power restoration effort in Florida.  Our team crossed the border Friday evening and has made their way already into the heart of the worst area surrounding Miami.  As we await to be joined by our Canadian colleagues early reports from our team are the devastation is very severe and the power restoration will take a considerable amount of time.  We are proud of our workers for volunteering to be away from their families to help the people and businesses of Florida recover from this devastation.

Hurricane Irma recently made landfall in the U.S. state of Florida as a major hurricane; it was the most intense Atlantic hurricane observed in over a decade. It was also the most intense hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005, and the first major hurricane to hit the state of Florida since Wilma in 2005.  Irma flooded streets, spawned tornadoes, knocked out power to millions of people across the state and snapped massive construction cranes over the Miami skyline.

Nearly 7.2 million homes and businesses were without power in multiple states.  The vast majority were in Florida. The state’s emergency management officials said the storm cut power to more than 6.5 million account holders across the state as of Monday afternoon.

As reported to CBS News Eric Silagy, the CEO of Florida Power & Light, said Irma caused the most widespread damage in the company’s history. It affected all 35 counties in the utility’s territory which is most of the state’s Atlantic coast and the Gulf coast south of Tampa. The most extensive damage was likely in the Naples area, but a full assessment was ongoing. He said 19,500 electric workers have been deployed in the restoration effort.

Oshawa Power is proud to answer the call and send its very best to those in need in Florida and be a part of representing Canada in this effort.  While we await the safe return of our colleagues we will continue to post regular updates of their progress.  We wish them well and ask them to be safe.

To follow our team’s progress please check our website www.oshawapower.ca, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook

As seen on CTV News, Oshawa Power and Utilities has been selected as one of three Utilities to participate in a pilot program that will give residents the ability to pick and choose a Utility Billing package that will work the best to suit the needs of their household. At Oshawa Power our goal is to bring the best services and value to our customers, when we applied to be a part of this initiative we thought it would benefit our community by giving more flexibility and better pricing options to our customers. The price of Electricity we understand is extremely important as well as the services we provide. We are pleased to be one of the preferred choices of the Ontario Energy Board to lead this important initiative here in Oshawa.

More details will follow, as we get closer to the launch of this but if you are interested in participating in this new and innovative program please contact our office. Stay tuned for more exciting information as the program unfolds!

See the news story here:


OSHAWA – Oshawa households and businesses can take credit for positive results in this past weekend’s Earth Hour event. Oshawa PUC Networks Inc. holds the distinction of being one of the few utilities that celebrated an increase in Earth Hour participation this year. Compared to the consumption leading up to Earth Hour Oshawa realized a 4.4% reduction in usage which equates to 6.03 megawatts of electricity savings. This is an increase from the 3.1% reduction in 2016.[/gdlr_column]

These results further display Oshawa’s active participation in energy conservation initiatives. We are proud of our customer’s effort to contribute to Earth Hour and demonstrating our collective commitment to increasing energy awareness and its impact on climate change. Thank you Oshawa.

Click here if you would like to get more information on energy conversation.

Ivano Labricciosa
President & CEO
Oshawa Power & Utilities Corporation
“Proudly Serving Oshawa With A Lifetime of Power”

Oshawa, ON…On November 14, 2016 the City of Oshawa experienced a power outage that affected approximately 18,000 customers in the north east quadrant of the City. The outage started at approximately 6:00 p.m. and Oshawa Power crews worked tirelessly throughout the evening to safely restore power to all customers by 11:15 p.m.

“The Oshawa Power crews pulled together and did not stop working until power was safely restored to every customer affected by the outage”, said Ivano Labricciosa, President and CEO of Oshawa Power. “It is tremendous efforts like this one that show our commitment to the residents of Oshawa.”

The root cause of the outage was a 44,000 volt overhead conductor splice failure that caused a live power line to come down at the corners of Mary Street and Taunton Road. In the process of making the site safe and restoring power, we experienced a second event as a 44,000 volt switch failed on an adjacent circuit at the main Wilson Substation at Rossland Road extending the duration of the outage.

Oshawa Power has implemented new customer facing technology solutions such as an on-line website customer portal, live outage reporting and tracking map and a twitter social media account that provide timely 24 hour customer information. During the outage, there was a significant spike in Oshawa customers seeking real-time updates on the status and restoration time for outages with over 50,000 impressions from these various communication channels.

About Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation
Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (Oshawa Power) is the holding company for a diversified group of four subsidiaries involved in energy distribution, telecom ventures, clean power generation and solar energy generation. Through its subsidiaries OPUC provides: safe, reliable and efficient electricity distribution services to over 57,000 customers; develops, constructs and operates clean and green energy generation assets in Ontario; and provides a reliable dark fibre optics communications network within Oshawa and the Region of Durham. OPUC is wholly owned by the Corporation of The City of Oshawa.

Media Contact:
Nadeige Carter
905-439-1917; ncarter@opuc.on.ca