Canada: Electricity Planning In Ontario: An Update

1. Electricity Planning in Ontario: Report from the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator. Engaging Local Communities in Ontario's Electricity Planning Continuum

Overview:

On August 6, 2013, the Ontario Power Authority ("OPA") and the Independent Electricity System Operator ("IESO") released their report on regional electricity planning entitled "Engaging Local Communities in Ontario's Electricity Planning Continuum" (the "Report"). The Report flows out of the May 6 letter from the Minister of Energy requesting that the OPA and IESO "work together to develop recommendations for a new integrated regional energy planning process that would focus on improving how large energy infrastructure projects are sited in Ontario". The Minister requested that the OPA and IESO consult with a wide range of stakeholders and submit their report and recommendations by August 1, 2013.

This bulletin provides a summary of the consultation process and the recommendations of the Report. The bulletin also briefly outlines the next steps in the development of the recommendations made in the Report.

The Report - Scope and Key Objectives:The key areas of focus of the Report include:

  • Regional electricity planning;
  • Enhancing engagement with municipalities, energy stakeholders and First Nations, Métis;
  • Ensuring these groups are engaged in processes related to the siting of large electricity generation and infrastructure projects.

The Report does not deal with electricity distribution planning or the siting of transmission or small scale generation projects.

The Consultation Process and Methodology for Developing the Recommendations:

The methodology used for developing the recommendations for the Minister of Energy included:

  • Review and analysis of existing processes for regional electricity planning and large electricity generation planning and siting;
  • Meetings with energy stakeholders and those organizations with expertise in planning and siting large scale electricity generation and infrastructure projects;
  • Research on how other jurisdictions conduct electricity planning and siting;
  • Discussions and meetings across Ontario with municipalities, First Nations, Métis, government ministries and agencies, citizens, and various interest groups on the strengths and weaknesses of existing planning and engagement processes;
  • Formal feedback sessions with energy experts and session participants on draft recommendations.

Between June 17, 2013 and July 29, 2013, IESO and OPA representatives held four webinars, held 20 stakeholder meetings and 18 regional meetings with First Nations and Métis communities. The OPA and IESO also established a dedicated web site (www.onregional-planning-and-siting-dialogue.ca) to receive comments about regional electricity planning. Formal written submissions were received through a specific email site as well (for access to the written submissions, please see Appendix D of the full Report).

The Recommendations of the Report:

The recommendations of the Report are designed to support the following overall objectives for improving electricity planning:

  • Bringing communities to the table;
  • Linking local and provincial planning;
  • Reinforcing the planning/siting continuum;
  • Enhancing electricity awareness and improving access to information.

The Report contains 18 recommendations. However, the following three recommendations are identified as "core" in that they represent a rough consensus of the stakeholder community. They are:

  • Strengthen processes for early and sustained engagement with local governments and the public. The IESO and the OPA will build on existing processes to improve stakeholder engagement.
  • Provide local governments and communities with greater voice and responsibility in planning and siting. The OPA, IESO, Ontario Energy Board, and the Ministry of Energy should explore mechanisms to provide greater flexibility to municipalities and First Nations to meet local needs. These mechanisms should also explore cost responsibility and reliability of service.
  • Support inter-ministerial coordination. The province should develop an "inter-ministerial action team" of senior officials from the Ministries of Energy, Transportation, Infrastructure, Health and Long Term Care, Municipal Affairs and Housing, Environment, and Aboriginal Affairs to coordinate policy development and clarify decision making.

The additional recommendations that build on these core recommendations are:

  • Foster ongoing relationships with First Nations and Métis and recognize the Duty to Consult;
  • Create regional electricity planning advisory committees;
  • Invite participation of local representatives in the regional electricity technical planning working group;
  • Develop stakeholder engagement strategies and plans;
  • Integrate electricity needs into relevant municipal plans;
  • Integrate relevant municipal information into regional electricity plans;
  • Promote community energy planning;
  • Recognize broader provincial and local interests in electricity system planning;
  • Facilitate a seamless transition from planning to siting;
  • Consider broader criteria in the generation procurement process, such as local priorities;
  • Strengthen review processes;
  • Review mechanisms for planning and procurement;
  • Increase awareness of electricity needs and how these needs can be met;
  • Increase transparency of, and access to, usable data and information;
  • The IESO and OPA along with the Ministry of Energy, should develop a detailed implementation strategy to outline the legislative, regulatory, consultation and resource implications of the recommendations.

Next Steps:

The Report's covering letter from the OPA and IESO suggest these recommendations undergo further review and comment by various provincial Ministries, agencies, associations and stakeholders. The OPA and IESO propose to report back to the Minister of Energy in September 2013 on detailed implementation proposals. As of early September, the Minister of Energy has not responded publically to the release of the Report.

The full Report can be accessed at www.powerauthority.on.ca/stakeholder-engagement/stakeholder-consultation/ontario-regional-energy-planning-review.

2. Submission Deadline for Ontario's Long Term Energy Plan Extended

The Ministry of Energy extended the deadline for submissions on Ontario's LTEP to September 16, 2013. Submissions may be made online through the Environmental Registry or directly to the Ministry.

3. OPA Releases Draft Integrated Resource Plan for the North of Dryden Area

On August 16, 2013, the OPA issued its "North of Dryden Draft Reference Integrated Regional Resource Plan" (the "Plan") and has established a new website dedicated to its planning work for north western Ontario (http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/power-planning/regional-planning-northwestern-ontario). The OPA is undertaking regional planning processes in six sub areas which will represent an overall North West region plan.

The Plan proposes two initiatives estimated to cost between $234 million and $271 million to meet the near-term electricity needs North of Dryden.

a) Bring a new transmission line from the Dryden/Ignance area to Pickle Lake; and

b) Upgrade the existing transmission lines from Dryden to Ear Falls and from Ear Falls to Red Lake.

The OPA also notes that there are 25 remote communities in northwestern Ontario that are not connected to Ontario's transmission grid and where electricity is supplied by diesel generation. The OPA has now identified that there is an economic case to connect up to 21 of these remote communities to the Ontario transmission system. The OPA is scheduled to issue its complete Remote Community Connection Plan in the Fall of 2013.

4. Ontario Supports Local Energy Planning in Municipalities and Aboriginal Communities

On August 21, 2013, the Minister of Energy announced a grant program to support the development of Municipal Energy Plans and Aboriginal Community Energy Plans. These Plans are optional and are intended to supplement the Province's Long Term Energy Plan ("LTEP") and regional plans by "focusing on unique community needs and goals". These Plans will focus on increasing conservation and will help a community to identify its best infrastructure options. The Ministry included guidelines and details of an application process. Successful municipal and First Nations applicants will receive funding for up to 50% of eligible costs to a maximum of $90,000 with remote First Nations Communities being eligible for funding up to $95,000. Further details are available on the Ministry of Energy's web site.

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