In oral Reasons for Decision issued by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), Ontario's Integrated Power System Plan (IPSP) Hearing was placed on hold on October 2, 2008 "until further notice".
The IPSP Hearing had started on September 8, 2008 and the evidence of the Ontario Power Authority's witnesses and cross-examination of them was proceeding in earnest. On September 17, 2008, new Minister of Energy and Infrastructure and Deputy Premier, the Hon. George Smitherman, issued to the OPA an amendment to the Supply Mix Directive (the "Amended Directive"). It was the Supply Mix Directive of June 2006 (the "SMD") which had required the OPA to begin preparation of the province's power system plan. Since at least June 2006, the OPA had been carrying out its research, engaging in consultations and marshalling its evidence in support of the plan. The OPA's evidence, more than 7,000 pages, was filed in August 2007. In mid-December 2007, the OEB held a one-week hearing solely to determine the issues for the Hearing.
The SMD, among other things, called for achieving total peak demand reduction from conservation by 2025 of 6,300 MW, the doubling of Ontario's then-current renewable energy supply to 15,700 MW by 2025, strengthening the transmission system to enable the achievement of the SMD goals, replacing coal-fired generation by cleaner sources in the "earliest practical time frame" and planning to use nuclear capacity to meet base-load electricity requirements but limiting the installed in-service capacity of nuclear power to 14,000 MW.
In issuing last month's Amended Directive, Minister Smitherman lauded the OPA for its considerable effort in preparing the filed plan and acknowledged the OPA's leadership efforts in helping to meet the province's electricity demand and supply requirements for the next 20 years. Nonetheless, the Minister cited "the change in circumstances since the development of the IPSP" as warranting further consideration of various aspects of the plan. The Minister has now required that the OPA revisit its IPSP with a view to establishing new targets in the following areas:
- The amount and diversity of renewable energy sources in the Supply Mix;
- The improvement of transmission capacity in the "orange zones" in northern Ontario and other parts of the province that is limiting the development of new renewable energy supply;
- The potential of existing coal-fired assets to be converted to bio-mass;
- The availability of distributed generation;
- The potential for pumped storage to contribute to the energy supply during peak time; and
- The viability of accelerating the achievement of stated conservation targets, including a review of the deployment and utilization of smart meters.
In addition, the OPA has been directed to undertake and enhance the process of consultation with First Nations and Métis communities, including the consideration of partnership opportunities in generation and transmission.
In adjourning the IPSP hearing, the OEB decided that it will not consider changes to the Issues List at this time, which some intervenors had asked it to do. The OEB also determined that it would not give the OPA an interpretation of or guidance on the Amended Directive; this in response to several intervenors who had submitted that the Amended Directive is vague and injects a new uncertainty into the process. The OEB reasoned that it is the OPA which is to use its best judgment in implementing the Amended Directive and the OEB's final ruling will determine whether the OPA complied with the Directive.
Going forward, the OEB has required that the OPA file a written progress report by November 30, 2008, providing an update as to when it expects to file additional evidence. At the time of the Reasons for Decision, the OPA expected that its additional evidence would be filed by March 16, 2009. Once the OPA's additional evidence is filed, the OEB will establish a process for amending the Issues List and for resumption of the Hearing.
When and indeed, if, the IPSP Hearing may resumes seem now to be fair questions.