Ontario’s New 4-Year Plan Paves Way for Grid Flexibility & Renewable Microgrids

Following an aggressive push to green its grid, Ontario now plans to focus on creating a lower-cost, more flexible electric system, opening the door to growth of renewable microgrids.

renewable microgridsThe provincial government described the strategy in its recently issued 2017 Long Term Energy Plan, “Delivering Fairness and Choice,” an endeavor Ontario undertakes once every four years.

Previous plans made the Canadian province a leader in clean energy and coal plant retirements. Ontario shut down the last of its coal-fired units three years ago. Since 2003, it has invested $70 billion in its electricity system and has boosted energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy.

The new guiding document works to bring greater innovation to the grid while ensuring costs are equitable, according to an introduction by Glenn Thibeault, Ontario’s energy minister.

“Ontario has a stable electricity system that produces a steady supply of electricity. Delivering Fairness and Choice is using this opportunity to move ahead with innovative ideas for managing the system and reducing costs,” he says.

The province is reforming its wholesale electricity markets to help spur innovation and competition. Called Market Renewal, the redesign moves Ontario away from long-term power supply contracts into a more competitive system like that of PJM and ISO New England in the United States. Ontario expects the transformation to save $5.2 billion from 2021 to 2030.

The reformed market will use competitive auctions to secure supply needs. Generators, demand response providers, importers and emerging new technologies could all vie to fill the need, with the most cost-effective resources winning out.

“Market Renewal will ensure that resources will be able to provide flexibility, reliability and ancillary services. This will help provide transparent revenue streams for the needed services and ensure that all resources can compete on a level playing field,” says the plan.

In the U.S., such market opportunities are increasingly seen as an inroad for microgrids, energy storage, demand response and other distributed energy resources to derive new revenue streams.

The four-year plan sees such modernization as a way to reduce energy costs, a hot-button issue in Ontario, given a sharp rise in electricity rates in recent years.

renewable microgrids

Glenn Thibeault, Ontario energy minister

“A modern grid can also give customers more choice, ranging from flexible pricing to enabling home energy management systems and realizing the full value of EVs,” says the report. “A modern grid can ensure that distributed energy resources like solar power, storage and microgrids can be integrated in the most efficient way possible. Above all, a modern grid can drive down costs for customers.”

The plan describes several  renewable microgrids already in various stages of planning, among them.

  • Oxford County was the first municipality in Ontario to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. To get there, the county plans to invest renewable energy, conservation, energy storage, microgrids and sustainable transportation.
  • Ontario Power Generation, the province’s largest energy provider is partnering with a Gull Bay First Nation (GBFN) on an advanced renewable microgrid on the GBFN reserve on the western shore of Lake Nipigon. With a population of 300, GBFN is among four remote First Nation communities where a grid connection would be excessively costly, as deemed by the Independent Electricity System Operator. Called the Gull Bay Diesel Offset Microgrid, the project will integrate new solar photovoltaics, battery energy storage, and a microgrid control system with the existing on-site diesel generators to create a community microgrid.
  • Planning and development is underway to bring clean, off-grid power to the other three First Nations to reduce their reliance on diesel. These projects may include renewable microgrids, battery storage, and other innovative technologies that meet identified community needs.
  • Also is planning is the Wikwemikong Solar Microgrid, a 300-kW microgrid is expected to begin construction in 2018/19. The project encompasses development of a microgrid controller, solar, and energy efficiency improvements to five community buildings. This project will receive funding through the Small Communities Fund, co-funded by the Ontario and the federal governments.

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. The article says “Oxford County was the first municipality in Ontario to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.” Is there a typo in date here? If not, 33 years is an awfully slow pace for such growth. Such a goal could be accomplished in less than 5 years given adequate resources. Just imagine China tuned into a global industrial giant in less than 20 years starting in late 80’s, with complete overhaul of its doemstic industrial infrastructure.

  2. Devon Wilson says:

    The best way to push and deploy the renewable energy Micro Grid in Ontario is to utilize the retired coal mines as press well hydro plants, this is a new technology that uses weight instead of elevation to drive hydraulic cylinder pressure via pelton turbines to generate electricity.The system uses a matrix with a weight transfer and relief phase and it recycles the water that drives its turbines for constant reuse.There is no need for a dam or run of the river .This is a 24\7 operation and will close the intermittent gap caused by solar and wind.With decentralized hydro plants collaboration is the order of the day.This is a real game changer .

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