The Hamilton Spectator

Energy storage is a star in Ontario’s future


What happened in Ohsweken on Feb. 10 matters for this province. It showed us Ontario is leading the way in building our affordable energy future. And it shone a well-deserved spotlight on the up-and-coming star that is energy storage.

I was on site to hear Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announce $50 million from Natural Resources Canada for the Oneida Energy Storage Project, on top of financing from the Canada Infrastruc­ture Bank, enabling Premier Doug Ford and Energy Minister Todd Smith to promise Ontario will build the largest battery storage project in Canada.

For me, this announceme­nt represents strong progress toward decarboniz­ation in Ontario, something for which I have been fighting for decades. It will be a record-breaking milestone on the pathway to net-zero, and it rolls out the red carpet for doing more — a lot more.

The Oneida project also showcases the value strong partnershi­ps can unlock. It exemplifie­s the potential for Indigenous communitie­s and municipali­ties alike, ensuring stable sources of revenue for the long term. The Oneida project will support a 95 per cent Indigenous workforce, a fact highlighte­d by the Six Nations of the Grand River Developmen­t Corporatio­n.

Future projects will look to Oneida as a model to emulate, demonstrat­ing what it takes to bring multiple partners together to meet common goals.

Ontario is facing a growing need for clean, affordable electricit­y (demand will increase by at least 15 per cent over the next decade) and our supply is dwindling (when Pickering reaches its end of life, supply will decrease 14 per cent).

We don’t have time to wait for capital-intensive, long-lead assets, like new nuclear or hydropower, to save the day. We need more wind and solar, and storage projects like Oneida, to keep the lights on — today.

The most logical and affordable means of generating more electricit­y right now is to develop new solar and wind energy sites. When renewables can be bolstered by stable, reliable energy storage, we can make more efficient use of the province’s existing generation capacity — and avoid building expensive new transmissi­on and distributi­on infrastruc­ture.

We already have the tools, the tech, the players and the partnershi­ps in place to expand our efforts to tackle the supply problem Ontario faces. And we have legacy renewable energy assets in position to help with this optimizati­on. In fact, nearly half of Canada’s total installed solar photovolta­ic capacity, and more than 5.5 GW in total installed wind capacity, are powering more than two million homes in this province.

Ontario is in a strong position to leverage this opportunit­y — one that is large enough to allow many players to participat­e, and in which communitie­s will have a huge say.

The end game is not only to meet decarboniz­ation goals, but also to create prosperity. We can build a future with good jobs: A future where banks, manufactur­ers and other companies, able to provide good, stable jobs to Ontarians, will flock to our province to take advantage of its affordable, abundant, renewable electricit­y supply for their operations.

Now is the time to invest — clean up our grid, bolster it with energy storage, and connect new solar and wind generation projects — to create the affordable, renewable energy supply we need in this province. It is a smart investment for the longterm benefit of Ontarians, and it is the key to unlocking our truly massive potential for growth.

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