Rebranding an environmental NGO in today’s Ontario

The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) was incorporated in early 2002, and was active in supporting sustainable communities that encouraged the Province to pass The Green Energy Act, the Feed in Tariff and Micro-Fit Programs and Net Metering regulations that drove new investment into wind, solar and biomass projects in Ontario. Promotion of renewable energy here occurred largely during this period of 2008-2015. Proponents said it was essential to kick-start renewable energy development and manufacturing in green technologies here in Ontario. Critics argued large corporations won long-term contracts or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) that were too costly. Few companies remained to manufacture wind and solar technologies in Ontario. But another real problem resulted in that by adopting increased renewable energy technologies deployment and “must run” generation, without energy storage technologies to backstop intermittent energy, Ontario created a balancing problem on the grid. Wind and Solar run at far higher costs to the system operator and ratepayer, often at “off peak” seasonal or daily times, and surplus results from existing baseload generation that is given to neighbouring power grids. This can be mitigated with energy storage, demand response etc.

Today, Ontario has the following installed capacity mix on the transmission system, according to the IESO of; Nuclear 35% (13,009MW), Gas 27% (10,277MW), Hydro (24%) 9,065MW, Wind at (12%) 4,486MW, Biofuel (1%) 295MW and Solar (1%) at 424MW, or 37,355MW of installed capacity overall. Additionally, there is installed capacity on the distribution system (commercially operational) of largely solar, wind, bioenergy, hydro and natural gas/CHP for 3,400 MW overall. Ontario today is in a surplus situation for energy and continues to seek market optimization for investment through capacity auctions, to lower the costs to end use consumers. (Source: IESO )

Since no one technology can meet the system needs at all times, a diverse mix that can leverage different attributes provides the right supply and demand mix to maintain our grid’s reliability. Ontario’s baseload electricity comes from nuclear and run of river plants, peaking needs are met by hydro dam generators and gas (CCGT) plants, and wind and solar plants provide hourly energy contributions-all managed by the grid operator the IESO. But today, technology has evolved to allow for two-way energy flows resulting in the need to accommodate more embedded generation or “Distributed Energy Resources”. These DERs enhance the local distribution network and alleviate strain on the transmission system. These changes should further encourage cost effective energy efficiency, reliability via imports and exports of electricity with neighbouring jurisdictions, increase both demand response (now 4MW) and energy storage (now 50MW) to help regulate and balance the Ontario grid.

OSEA has analyzed the existing situation in Ontario and decided it must reorient its mission to accommodate the fast-changing energy technology mix and of the Provincial energy system and its policies that will enable further growth in clean technologies. No one energy generation technology is devoid of environmental impacts, especially on a life cycle basis. Nuclear has a huge footprint, spent fuel and waste storage concerns, gas peaking plants emit CO2, wind and solar farms displace agricultural land and are intermittent, large hydro floods huge swaths of pristine forests and native land, displaces fish, and emits methane from its reservoirs. Geo-exchange remains one of the most benign technologies with a high efficiency rating of 4-6: 1 unit of power needed to heat and cool space in buildings and homes. The only technologies that are free of these anomalies remains energy efficiency solutions as deep retrofit project pay from savings, reduce both energy use and emissions from buildings, industries and homes.

OSEA is focused on the following goals as an energy/environmental association in 2020:

  • Promoting cost effective Climate Change Resilience, Mitigation and Adaptation solutions and Sustainable Finance e.g. SRI and ESG through social impact investment;
  • Promoting Ontario’s growing pool of expertise in green energy / clean tech and services such as engineering, finance, project management etc., to access new global markets in Asia, Africa and Latin / Central America (in addition to the USA);
  • Promoting Ontario’s Bioeconomic in biomass, CHP, pellets, wood chips, etc. including seeking participation with First Nations where applicable, creating economic activity;
  • Advocacy to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) as a cost eligible intervenor to support improved access for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), and seeking to lower connection costs to the transmission grid to enable more small-scale power solutions;
  • Education / promotion of sustainable energy technologies through Green Energy Doors Open2020 TM an annual sustainable energy technology showcase that is open to the public free of charge and will be national in scope.

OSEA’s members include electric and gas utilities, small medium enterprises in clean technology and energy services, communities seeking to move to a lower and cleaner energy scenario, NGOs and individuals, all striving to promote a low carbon sustainable future for Ontario. By collaborating with our members, our other association partners, and with support from sponsors and funding organizations like foundations, OSEA plays a critical role as a voice to counter the narrative against the move towards cleaner energy in our Province. Ontario’s electricity grid is largely carbon free today, but many challenges remain to better integrate emerging DERs and energy storage technologies, drive additional energy efficiency investments, and where economic, pursue electrification of our transportation system to further displace carbon and other emissions. OSEA continues to remain an effective and credible voice to establish cost effective and reasonable energy policy in Ontario, while creating new economic activity and jobs in our clean tech sector including bio-economy and green exports.

Dan Goldberger is the President and Chairman of the Board for the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA),