Energy Minister Todd Smith reaffirmed the Ontario government's commitment to "Made-in-Ontario" waterpower during his keynote address at the Annual Power of Water Canada Conference, organised by the Ontario Waterpower Association (OWA).
During his speech, Minister Smith highlighted the government's recognition of the vital role played by Ontario's hydroelectric assets in securing the province's energy future and achieving electrification and decarbonization objectives. Stephen Somerville, Chair of the OWA Board of Directors, commended the government for acknowledging the significant opportunities for expanding waterpower's contribution to Ontario's energy landscape.
Minister Smith emphasized the positive progress made in collaboration between the OWA, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and the Ministry of Energy in designing and finalizing a Program to recontract existing small hydroelectric facilities. In addition, the Minister underscored the importance of new waterpower projects in meeting short and long-term energy requirements, as well as the opportunities they present for Indigenous economic participation.
" Waterpower is a big part of why Ontario enjoys a clean energy advantage with one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world," stated Minister Smith. " I’m pleased that the OWA and the IESO continue to make progress on a new program to recontract existing small hydroelectric facilities. Working together, we will ensure our province is on track to meet the electricity needs and increasing electrification while leveraging clean, renewable hydro generation to power economic growth for decades to come."
In a letter issued to the IESO in October 2022, the Minister provided instructions for the framework of the recontracting program. This letter acknowledged the crucial role played by hydroelectric facilities in generating electricity, as well as their additional benefits such as recreational opportunities, flood control, irrigation, tourism, and local employment and economic development. The recontracting program is expected to be finalized and implemented by fall 2023.
In February 2023, the Ministry launched a public consultation seeking input on the IESO's "No Regrets" recommendations, outlined in their "Pathways to Decarbonization" Report. Concurrently, the Ministry released the "Northern Ontario Hydroelectric Opportunities" Report, prepared by Ontario Power Generation with assistance from the OWA. This report identified a vast untapped potential of 4000 - 5000MW for hydroelectric development in the province.
Stephen Somerville expressed optimism about the industry's future, stating: " Our industry is poised to grow through a measured and planned cadence to the expansion of existing assets and the development of new resources. One look at the talent and expertise of the companies attending our annual conference and it is apparent that we’re ready to deliver."
According to a socioeconomic analysis commissioned by the OWA, an estimated $2.4 billion will be invested in sustaining existing assets in the near term, which will support 5,000 jobs. Furthermore, approximately 75 percent of each dollar invested in hydro developments and expansions remains within the province, bolstering local communities, workers, and families.