Facing an unprecedented growth of demand for power in Essex and Kent Counties over the next five years, Premier Doug Ford will announce Friday, in addition to investing $1 billion to fast-track the building of five new transmission lines, the province is also prepared to speed up the process for approving the lines.
“Nothing will slow us down as we build the infrastructure that businesses need to create jobs right here in southwestern Ontario,” Ford said in a statement.
The rapidly growing greenhouse industry and the addition of the new $5-billion battery factory and its extensive supply chain, combined with a growing population, will result in a doubling of demand in the region from 1,000 to 2,000 megawatts over the next five years. That’s about 20 times the average rate of growth of demand expected across the rest of the province.
Whether the region would have enough power in the short term to attract the supply chain forming for the LG Energy Solutions/Stellantis battery plant was feared to be one of the obstacles in landing a $2.5-billion LG Chem cathode plant.
However, sources have said talks in recent weeks between the province and local officials about the options available to boost capacity and transmission both in the short and long term have convinced city officials that a lack of power will not be an issue in the region’s attempts to land the LG Chem plant or other facilities.
“While electricity demand is increasing elsewhere in the province, the speed and magnitude of forecasted growth in Southwest Ontario is unique,” said Andrew Dow, the Independent Electricity System Operator’s supervisor media relations and editorial services.
“All options are being used to increase electricity capacity in the region, including generation, transmission, energy efficiency and innovative solutions.”
Officials said talks between the province, IESO and city have been moving rapidly in the past few days.
Among the ideas on the table are extending the new transmission lines from Lakeshore right to the Lauzon Parkway as part of one project rather than following the completion of the initial Lakeshore phase.
Speeding up the environmental assessment process is another measure being discussed.
IESO and local officials are also looking at starting up some dormant generation facilities, including co-generational capacity in the private sector. A list of companies with that capacity is being compiled and an assessment of how long it might take to get those facilities operational is being undertaken.
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The province is also looking at incentive programs in areas like Essex County where there are capacity challenges. That could be things like subsidizing placing solar panels on roof tops to boost generation or conservation efforts to reduce load demand.
“The IESO has been actively engaging with communities and businesses in southwest Ontario for several years now and there are multiple efforts underway to support growth,” Dow said.
“These efforts have helped support the greenhouse sector and will ensure support for the recently announced Stellantis facility.”