The Ford government has ended a five-year moratorium on renewable energy projects. The IESO now wants to contract 2000 megawatts of wind, solar and hydroelectric power generation. It plans a further 3000 MW over the decade. The procurements would double the current total of 4000 MW from renewables. Groups like the Clean Air Alliance say the plans are too limited. They are calling for 17,000 MW of wind generation to take advantage of the huge and steady winds across the Great Lakes.
Calls are out now for the BESS proposals that renewable energy generation requires.
“The first thing on the agenda,” said the Minister, “is dealing with what are now really just urban legends, in other words, myths, about Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) and fires.”
“BESS are now in wide use in private industry, in Belleville’s Industrial Park and across Ontario. They are a great investment for companies to have that back-up power supply. They are taking the place of generators now,” he explained.
“The transition is seamless, quiet, safe, and people are not aware of this, but they are already in use across the province. Manufacturing and industrial facilities use the batteries for a seamless transition. Before, if there were a power failure, they could be down for days.”
Atura Power, a subsidiary of OPG, is proposing a Lithium-Ion BESS Phase 2 in Napanee, next to its BESS phase 1. Together, the two systems will be able to supply 500 MW for four hours — one of the largest facilities in the province.
Late last year, Napanee’s Council approved a resolution of support for three BESS systems. It also approved another natural gas generating station, proposed by OPG to expand the operations at the site of the Lennox and Napanee stations. In return, Napanee stands to gain $4.8 million in incentives payments.
The federal government wants fossil fuel generation phased out by 2035 and a grid at net zero by 2050. So far, 35 municipalities across the province have passed resolutions against Ontario’s plans to increase generation from natural gas.
“New BESS won’t be online until 2025. We need gas till then,” notes the Minister, “and then we need Long Duration storage. Gas is going to be here for quite some time,” says Mr. Smith, noting the federal targets are unrealistic. “Certainly past 2035.”
None of these new projects will be online before about 2029. The cancellation of 750 renewable power projects across the province in 2018 delayed the arrival of clean energy by about five years. The minister notes, though, that costs are now much lower, and the technology is better.
BESS, for example, now offer Long Duration storage. Standard BESS can supply power for just four hours at most. LD projects mean 9 or 10 hours.
“That extra storage is going to make all the difference in making renewables really useful power sources,” said the Minister.
“Five and ten years ago, when the Liberals were pushing these procurements, first, they had agreed to exhorbitant prices, and second, they didn’t have the storage you need to make them a useful and reliable part of the grid. You need to start with the capacity to store the power you generate.”
Asked about the failure of recent BESS proposals in the County, the Minister shook his head.
“Under the old system municipalities were just told what to do, so the proponents did not need to be so great at delivering pitches. They are not used to speaking to Councils or trying to persuade the public – they will need to do more work.”
The Minister is aware of the fallout from the White Pines Development, which proposed to pay individual landowners who agreed to host a wind turbine, pitting neighbour against neighbour.
He points out that new energy projects, from BESS to solar installations to windfarms, fall under the purview of Ontario’s 2015 legislation around community benefits agreements, an important tool for municipalities to leverage new development for community gain.
“There were always people benefitting, but before the deals were with individual landowners.” Instead, the Minister suggests dividends go to local municipalities.
A municipal resolution is necessary. “That’s my mantra,” laughs the personable Mr. Smith. “If the Municipal Council says no, the
energy won’t go.”
That rule applies to all new energy infrastructure. BESS is faring better than gas, as is wind. Still, some communities are reluctant.
“The IESO is satisfied with the resolutions they are getting, but there are concerns,” notes Mr. Smith. “It’s incumbent on the proponents to work with municipalities. In turn, municipalities need to be well educated and to ask the right questions.”
“The IESO needs to get out in front of this. They’ve created a division for municipal outreach and First Nations outreach. It’s important to have these conversations, to inform Councils about how they can benefit from investments into the energy grid within their communities.”
“The power grid is a local thing. Renewables need local storage and ready connection to the grid. This is an opportunity for communities to harness their own local electrical generation. There is potential for benefit agreements with developers. Ultimately it is up to the municipalities: they need to understand the potential benefits.”
New procurements are having great success in Northern Ontario. Communities in and around Sioux St. Marie, Timmins, and Sudbury are opening up vast tracts of land to energy projects — including nuclear reactors.
The Canada Infrastructure Bank loaned $970 million to OPG to develop its Darlington New Nuclear project, which consists of four Small Modular Reactors (SMR).
“The world is watching,” says the Minister about a project dear to his heart. “The Kandu established Canada’s reputation around the world as a safe nuclear operator.”
Mr. Smith sees a market for the new technology in Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and potentially the UK. It would mean 75,000 jobs across the country, including 6,000 in Ontario, at Darlington and Bruce.
“The world is looking to us for leadership. We are the face of nuclear power.”
Canada’s expertise in small nuclear could put it on the world map, as a leader in clean electricity generation and a major exporter of new technology. That means growth, employment, and global leadership.
The down side is that putting resources into SMRs could compromise a large-scale shift to generating power from wind and sun, options that are safer, cheaper and faster in the race to lower emissions.