Ontario continues to struggle with the thorny issue of siting
large energy infrastructure. The Liberal government of former
premier Dalton McGuinty found itself embroiled in a major
controversy about locating two gas plants in the southwest Greater
Toronto Area. An all-party committee of the current minority
Ontario Legislature continues its review of the cancellation of
these two plants in Mississauga and Oakville before and during the
last provincial election. The costs of these two
cancellations will certainly range well north of $500
million. And just this past week, the Greater Toronto Area
was hit with heavy flooding and widespread power outages as a
result of yet another unusual weather occurrence.
Against this backdrop, the new Wynne government has made clear
its desire to find a better way to site power plants and related
transmission facilities. In the Speech from the Throne which opened
the Spring Session of the Legislature, the government
emphasized its plans to find 'willing hosts ' for such
energy projects. Shortly thereafter in early May,
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli wrote to both the Ontario Power
Authority (OPA)and the Independent Electricity System Operator
(IESO) asking them to develop specific recommendations " for a
new integrated regional energy planning process that will focus on
improving how large energy infrastructure projects are sited in
The Minister has requested that the OPA and the IESO conduct
detailed consultations with municipalities, Aboriginal communities
and other stakeholders and submit a joint report to him by August
1st 2013. Minister Chiarelli has asked for a
report that contains ' concrete proposals' regarding how a
regional energy plan might be developed, ' transparent
mechanisms' for community engagement, and processes for
ensuring that municipalities are seriously involved in siting major
energy infrastructure. Finally, the Minister has asked for
recommendations on how to implement such regional energy planning
processes with 'specific advice on related policy and
Consultations are well underway and there is every expectation
that the OPA and the IESO will be able to file a joint report to
the Minister by the end of July. Meanwhile, the Legislative
Committee on Justice Policy continues its high-profile
investigation of the gas-plant controversy. With five
provincial by-elections now underway for August 1st,
Ontarians should expect to be hearing a good deal more about siting
energy infrastructure over the coming weeks and months.
Interested parties would be well advised to pay attention to this
issue of regional energy planning. Policy makers must
find a way to deal with growing resistance in both urban and rural
communities to siting critical infrastructure especially at a time
when weather patterns seem to be underlining the urgency of the
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