In July 2023, Ontario’s Ministry of Energy released its roadmap for acquiring and maintaining the electricity resources needed to satisfy increasing demand for electricity in the province. The 84-page document, titled Powering Ontario’s Growth: Ontario’s Plan for a Clean Energy Future (Plan), sets out the province’s plan to build clean electricity generation, storage, and transmission infrastructure and facilities to accommodate that growing demand, which, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Pathways to Decarbonization report cited in the Plan, could require Ontario to more than double its generating capacity from 42,000 to 88,000 megawatts (MW) by 2050. The three main drivers of this increase noted in the Plan are economic growth, electrification and a growing population. Some of the province’s significant ongoing and planned initiatives, as described in the Plan, are summarized below.
Nuclear Energy Builds and Refurbishments
Ontario’s nuclear strategy includes new builds and refurbishing existing facilities. Pre-development work has commenced in respect of a possible 4,800 MW new nuclear generation facility at the Bruce nuclear site, which would be the first large-scale nuclear build in Ontario since 1993. The province is also moving forward with a new small modular reactor (SMR) build at the Darlington nuclear site, which would deliver an additional 300 MW of electrical capacity, and working to advance the planning and licensing for three additional SMRs at Darlington, bringing the potential aggregate new generating capacity from Darlington SMRs up to 1,200 MW.
Refurbishments are currently underway for the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and the Bruce Nuclear Generation Station. The Darlington refurbishment is scheduled to end in 2026 and is expected to secure 3,500 MW of power until 2055. The Bruce refurbishment is scheduled to end in 2033, is expected to secure at least 6,550 MW of generating capacity and will enable the operation of the Bruce Nuclear Generation Station until 2064.
The provincial government has also asked Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to update a feasibility assessment for refurbishing the four Pickering B units at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. If feasible, refurbishing the Pickering B units could secure more than 2,000 MW of baseload power for 30 years or more.
Ontario intends to invest further in hydrogen projects across the province in line with its Low-Carbon Hydrogen Strategy, which was the subject of our earlier Blakes Bulletin: Common Elements: Recent Federal and Ontario Developments Towards a Low-Carbon Hydrogen Strategy. This includes advancing work to develop the Niagara Hydrogen Centre, which is expected to use a 20 MW electrolyzer to produce low-carbon hydrogen that could then be sold to fuel transportation or industry or injected into a natural gas generating station to lower its carbon intensity. The Niagara Hydrogen Centre project alone could increase the amount of low-carbon hydrogen produced in Ontario by eight times.
The provincial government is currently investigating additional ways to leverage Ontario’s infrastructure and resources to become a leader in low-carbon hydrogen production and to develop opportunities for hydrogen and hydrogen storage to be integrated further into Ontario’s electricity system.
Battery Storage and Renewable Energy Generation Procurements
Ontario is moving forward with the largest battery storage procurement in Canada’s history through its Request for Proposals for the Procurement of Expedited Long-Term Electricity Reliability Services (E-LT1) and Request for Proposals for the Procurement of Long-Term Electricity Reliability Services (LT1) processes. In the first round of the E-LT1 process, the IESO selected seven new battery storage projects with an aggregate storage supply of 739 MW. Though not described in the Plan, the second and final round of the E-LT1 process concluded recently and resulted in the IESO selecting an additional eight new battery storage projects with an aggregate storage supply of 142 MW. Once constructed, these facilities will store electricity off-peak when power demand is low and return the power to the grid at times of increased demand. The IESO is expected to procure approximately 1,600 MW of additional battery storage capacity through its ongoing LT1 process, which is anticipated to run until April 2024.
The province has also directed the IESO to begin planning for an additional round of energy procurements. These procurements would be focused on energy to fill the newly procured storage resources and to meet demand at any time, including non-emitting energy technologies such as wind, solar, hydroelectric and biogas.
The province’s hydroelectric strategy focuses on re-contracting and modernizing its current hydroelectric fleet, which includes some sites that are more than 100 years old, and developing additional pumped hydroelectric storage facilities. At the request of the province, OPG has several projects underway to improve existing generating capacity from hydro-generating facilities, including redeveloping the Calabogie Generating Station to double its generating capacity from 5 MW to approximately 11 MW, and is identifying additional opportunities for future hydroelectric power generation throughout the province.
Ontario has a single pumped hydroelectric storage facility, which is a 175-MW pump-generator in the Niagara Region, though the province is advancing two additional projects: (i) a proposed 1,000 MW open-loop hydroelectric pumped storage project in the Municipality of Meaford, and (ii) a proposed 400 MW closed-loop hydroelectric pumped storage project in the Municipality of Marmora and Lake. The IESO will be reviewing these two projects to determine whether one or both projects could be built to help meet Ontario’s projected electricity demand.
As part of satisfying electricity demand across the province, the Plan describes the Ontario government’s intention to develop new electricity transmission infrastructure in Southwest, Northeast and Eastern Ontario, including five new lines in the Windsor-Essex and Chatham areas, three new lines in the Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins areas, and a new line between Peterborough and the Oshawa/Pickering area. The Plan also notes that electricity flow between Northern and Southern Ontario is currently limited by existing transmission capacity. The IESO and Minister of Energy are currently investigating options for new transmission infrastructure between Toronto and Sudbury as well as options for future transmission lines in the Greater Toronto Area.
Indigenous Engagement and Participation
The Plan acknowledges a growing interest from Indigenous communities and organizations in building and operating energy infrastructure, including transmission lines, and notes that Indigenous participation and support for proposed energy projects will be a key feature of future procurement initiatives in Ontario’s energy sector.
The Plan sets out Ontario’s multi-pronged approach to address increasing demand for electricity and to achieve a clean energy future, including, among other initiatives, new nuclear builds, refurbishing existing nuclear facilities, investing in low-carbon hydrogen production, procuring new non-emitting resources, such as electrical supply from wind and solar projects and battery energy storage facilities, investing in hydroelectric resources and expanding Ontario’s transmission lines. The provincial government has also acknowledged that engaging with Indigenous communities will be an important factor in developing Ontario’s clean energy infrastructure.
Blakes lawyers are currently engaged on clean energy mandates throughout Ontario and are closely monitoring developments in Ontario’s clean energy sector and implementation of the Plan.
For further information, please contact any member of our Power group.
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