In an effort to involve communities in the planning process for regional energy infrastructure, the government has asked the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to develop a new regional energy planning process based on formal input from municipalities, Aboriginal and other communities and the energy sector.
IESO and OPA are expected to report back to the Minister of Energy with a joint implementation plan by August 1st, 2013. The plan will take into account recommendations on energy project siting made by the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy.
The government’s hope is that, through strong public consultation, regional energy plans will lead to better decision making so that large energy infrastructure projects are situated in the right location from the beginning.
The announcement met with a swift and positive response from the energy industry. Elise Herzig, President and CEO of the Ontario Energy Association said,
“We applaud Premier Wynne and Minister Chiarelli for taking leadership on this issue and recognizing the importance of advancing generation projects while still balancing the needs of individual municipalities. We welcome the opportunity to work with the provincial government, and its agencies, to achieve balanced siting protocols that respect the needs of municipalities and consumers.”
We also think this is a good move by the government. It reflects a sentiment we expressed last year in comments on the Ontario Energy Board’s proposed Renewed Regulatory Framework for Electricity (RRFE):
“…regional planning should take into account relevant land use planning documents. Regional electricity planning should not presume or usurp the land use planning function. Wherever possible, transmitters and distributors should work closely with land use planning authorities to integrate the land use and electricity transmission/distribution planning…”
The government recently announced a six-month review of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan, to determine the best energy supply mix for the province over the next 20 years. The review will be based on strong public consultations.