The Ontario Minister of Energy announced yesterday that it will be suspending the second phase of the Large Renewable Procurement Process, known as LRP II, effective immediately. This is a (hopefully temporary) setback for First Nations in some areas of Ontario for whom LRP II represented a significant economic development opportunity.
LRP was a competitive bidding process under which developers prepared proposals to build large renewable energy projects that would then sell their energy to the Ontario grid under a contract with the Independent Electricity System Operator.
Ontario’s press statement also announces the Province’s intention to develop a new Long-Term Energy Plan, scheduled to be released in 2017, with consultations and engagements involving “consumers, businesses, energy stakeholders and Indigenous partners” to occur this fall.
Large renewable procurement in Ontario has attracted both praise and scorn. In these new rounds of engagements, it is critical this re-tooling by the Province doesn’t lose sight of the elements of the process that have worked well. The framework that allowed for aboriginal participation in projects has been a particularly bright light. Beginning with the Feed-in-Tariff Program (FIT), these renewable energy regimes have included constructive policies (underpinned by the Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program – explained here) to encourage consultation and accommodation, and benefit sharing between developers and aboriginal communities. More recently, in moving away from the FIT Program’s fixed price commitment, the strength of LRP was to retain these attributes within a competitive pricing process, demonstrating that Aboriginal participation and downward rate pressure can go hand-in-hand. LRP also provided good opportunities for Aboriginal communities across the province to be involved as owners in projects prioritizing environmental stewardship in their territories.
We will keep this blog updated on engagement dates for the new Long Term Energy Plan. In the meantime, we hope this farewell is an “until we meet again” and not a “good-bye” to the positive policies that have expanded renewable energy development in Ontario while providing opportunities for meaningful sharing of benefits with Aboriginal communities.