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Ford government has renewed interest in renewable energy

Ontario's electricity system operator is gearing up to bring more renewable energy projects onto the grid
Ministers of Energy and Environment Todd Smith and Andrea Khanjin.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A version of this article originally appeared on The Trillium, a new Village Media website devoted to covering provincial politics at Queen’s Park.

Five years after campaigning against a huge renewable energy expansion, the Ford government is planning its own clean power build-out to meet the electricity needs of a growing population. 

On Tuesday, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) outlined a plan to contract renewable energy projects like wind, solar and hydro that'll come onto the grid in the early to mid-2030s. 

The IESO is targeting about 5,000 megawatts split between three separate, staged procurements.

The first round of procurement is for 2,000 megawatts and is set to launch in 2024, with the projects coming onto the grid by 2030. 

The next two are for 1,500 megawatts each and are targeting service dates of 2032 and 2034. The exact figures could change as the Crown corporation finalizes its plans in the new year. 

The IESO is taking a staggered approach to avoid building too much power infrastructure at once and allowing for on-the-fly adjustments to new technology or changing demand. 

Staging the procurements with some targeting later service dates also means certain larger, more complex projects, like hydro plants, have more time to get built, the IESO said in a report to Energy Minister Todd Smith. 

The renewable build-out will also "complement" the government's existing storage procurements, IESO president Lesley Gallinger said in a statement. 

"When you consider the new storage fleet that we're building out right now, it's running approximately 2,500 megawatts of electricity storage to the grid in the next several years," said David Devereaux, director of resource planning at the IESO, in a briefing to reporters on Monday. 

"That will create the opportunity to ensure we're capturing that clean energy from times when it's produced to times when it's most needed," Devereaux added. 

It'll also help mitigate the harmful climate impacts of the PCs' gas plant expansion, he said.

Pairing the new storage and renewable projects "allows us to slowly start to reduce the output of our natural gas generators and eliminate those emissions," said Barbara Ellard, the IESO's director of resource and system adequacy. 

The procurements aren't just targeting new facilities.

Nearly 4,000 megawatts of wind and solar power combined are set to come off the grid between 2026 and 2034 and the IESO hopes some of those facilities can be re-contracted and upgraded to be more efficient or have a smaller footprint. 

Ontario has largely relied on contracting natural gas plants to fill an expected energy supply shortage looming in the mid to late-2020s after the PCs cancelled 750 renewable energy contracts after being elected in 2018.  

The province is in the midst of purchasing 4,000 megawatts of new energy supply — enough to power about four million homes — to meet the demand expected over the next decade. 

As part of that effort, in May Smith announced new energy storage and gas plant contracts that will net the province about 1,300 of the 4,000 required megawatts. 

That won’t be enough, Smith’s plan says.

“Once this competitive process is complete in 2024, there will still be a need for additional generation in the 2030s,” the plan said, which is where Monday's announcement of new renewable procurements fits in. 


Aidan Chamandy

About the Author: Aidan Chamandy

Aidan Chamandy specializes in energy and housing. He can usually be found looking for government documents on obscure websites and filing freedom-of-information requests. He hosts and produces podcasts. Reach him anytime at [email protected].
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