Renew Aging Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure

Future investments should be focused on ensuring the reliability of the Ontario’s “backbone” transmission and distribution assets.

  • Ontario has issued transmission licenses to multi-national companies who have been developing wind and solar projects in the province. Experience in the U.S. suggests that having too many companies involved in the transmission system leads to “balkanization” that makes it difficult to coordinate investments to improve the reliability of the system.
  • As a result of public opposition to the siting of wind farms and the billion plus dollar compensation package paid for two cancelled natural gas generating stations, the government has mandated the creation of twenty-one regional energy plans. While this regional approach is intended to “engage local communities” in the process, it will also present additional challenges for Ontario’s electricity system. Tailoring regional plans to local conditions will lead to further “balkanization” of the system. These planning activities will also incur significant costs that will have to be borne by ratepayers. Other potential issues include asset stranding and ensuring that all Ontarians receive the same level of service at similar price.
  • A recent decision by the Minister of Energy to avoid forced rationalization of Local Distribution Companies (electrical utilities) in favour of a willing buyer-willing seller approach is the best one for the ratepayers, the province and municipalities.
  • There is no cost/benefit assessment of the “Smart Grid” technology investments made to date. Such assessments should guide future investments. Priority should be given to investments that:
    • Support the deployment of electric vehicle-charging infrastructure to take advantage of Ontario’s low-carbon hydroelectric and nuclear generation;
    • Minimize outages that impact consumers; and
    • Enable products and services that inform and allow consumers to make knowledgeable decisions about their electricity usage.
    • Ensures regional energy planning maximizes the use of existing assets.
  • Energy storage investments should be based on proven technologies and include an assessment of the costs and benefits.
  • Although there are not yet many significant, cost-effective energy storage options there are opportunities in some locations for pumped storage hydroelectric facilities. Expanding the existing Sir Adam Beck pumped storage facility is an example of an opportunity to provide additional capacity and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Other storage technologies such as hydrogen production from surplus base load generation for injection into natural gas pipelines may have value at some point in reducing greenhouse gases from the natural gas system.