Many new technologies and approaches, like energy storage (batteries, pumped storage, etc.), electric vehicles, distributed energy resources (DER) and demand response are significantly changing the way Ontario produces and delivers electricity to our homes and businesses. These changes include new players -private developers and investors, technology and service providers. There is also a new consumer group -“prosumers”- people who produce and use their own electricity and sell their surplus to the system.
These new technologies and approaches can be integrated to create a micro-grid, a discrete energy system of DERs and consumer loads that can disconnect from the traditional grid and operate autonomously.
Developers, private investors, institutions like hospitals and schools and prosumers can share the revenues and establish their own “local, reliable” energy security. For utilities, it presents “non-wires alternatives or NWAs”. By engaging in load-modifying distributed generation and storage technologies, NWAs offer utilities a mechanism by which to leverage the growth of distributed energy resources. These non-traditional options help defer, mitigate and or potentially eliminate the need for traditional utility investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure.
They also raise key policy questions. How will the costs and benefits be defined and shared among the stakeholders? Who will pay for stranded assets created when traditional infrastructure is not needed before the end of its economic life? Have provisions been made for the decommissioning and management of wastes from these new technologies? Will Ontario continue to have one uniform electricity price for all Ontarians?