EDF Renewables seeks Napanee’s approval for energy storage project

Napanee’s historic Town Hall in the waning light of an autumn day, 2023. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Yet another electrifying suitor rode into town Tuesday night to play court to Napanee Council, but the suit was damped by a detractor.

In what has seemingly become routine, the Greater Napanee Town Council heard a presentation on Tuesday, Oct.10, 2023, at their regular Council meeting on behalf of yet another proposed multi-million-dollar energy storage project (this time it was EDF Renewables) that would take advantage of the anticipated upgrades to and increased demands on Ontario’s energy system, including the upcoming closures of Lennox Generating Station by 2029 and Pickering Nuclear Generating Station by 2028.

According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Crown corporation responsible for operating the electricity market and directing the operation of the bulk electrical system in the province of Ontario, Ontario currently has 228 MW (megawatts) in storage capacity on the grid; however, the IESO anticipates that by 2026 Ontario will have at least 1,217 MW of storage capacity participating in the IESO’s electricity market — in addition to smaller storage installations that serve local communities, businesses, and homes.

Napanee has thus become, as a director of another energy storage company who visited Napanee recently put it, a “strategically important location within Ontario’s current transmission network,” for storage companies to set up shop because of its location which easily allows the flow of electricity west or eastwards to fill the emerging capacity gap within Ontario.”

William Colucci is the project developer who spoke to Council on behalf of EDF Renewables’s proposed Bethany Energy Storage Project, a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS).

In his presentation he described EDF as “a global leader in the generation of carbon-free electricity; Builder, owner, and operator of distribution and transmission lines, gen-tie [lines], and all associated infrastructure and delivery systems;…[and] a key international player in the energy transition.”

Colucci told Council he was speaking to them that evening “because the IESO is moving forward with the largest procurement of energy storage in Canada. They hope to obtain 1,600 megawatts of projects that come online by the year 2028, and that comes in line with this project specifically.”

“The failure to integrate this kind of technology could create conditions similar to those seen in California, with the shortfalls in rotating blackouts due to challenges in the electricity system,” Colucci warned.

“Battery storage is of interest to the IESO,” he said, “as it is a flexible, modular resource that can be placed where it has the most value, including growing urban centres such as Greater Napanee” (though his slide here happened to say “The City of Vaughan,” for which he apologized).

 “The procurement submission date is December 12, 2023, for this project, with contract award in [second quarter] 2024 and projects in operation by 2028,” Colucci continued.

“A key component of the procurement submission is to obtain a Municipal Support Resolution. This does not remove local planning or permitting processes, but is more to demonstrate that the municipality supports the technology in principle at the time of the bid. Developers will still need to obtain all local permits and approvals before they can construct.”

Colucci stated that the company will be holding an open house on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, “so that we can allow all constituents to come and ask questions about the project.”

He also “made sure to mention” that “part of our proposal on this project is that we will be offering a community benefit fund for the project… in the form of about $25,000 per year for the contract term of the project, so that’ll be ongoing. The contract terms with the IESO are for 20 years, so you’re looking at $25,000 every year for 20 years.”

“We know that there are other projects being proposed within Greater Napanee… [however], due to the transmission constraints and the shape of the system, it’s likely that only one of these projects will actually be granted an award. But we’re hoping to have this project be one of those projects,” Colucci explained.

“The site itself is located on private land, and our landowner, Todd Grant, is here in attendance tonight, just to show support for the project, [which] will be sited on approximately 10 acres of land. It’s a great location next to the existing transmission line owned by Hydro One.”

After asking for the resolution of support from Council, Colucci said, “I understand citizens are speaking tonight about the concerns of the project, and I encourage them to attend our open house on November 1. I’m happy to chat with them later on tonight or in the future, as well as any other interested citizens that are unable to attend tonight or [attend the] open house.”

After some discussion, Council voted to “note and receive” the deputation from EDF Renewables and directed that a staff report regarding the request for a municipal support resolution be brought back to the Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023 meeting for consideration.

“So hopefully, on the 24th… we’ll have an answer for you, and that should get you well within the deadlines,” Mayor Terry Richardson said to Colucci.

Next, Council heard from Gavin Cross, who spoke in opposition to the proposed BESS Project.

“What you have in front of you is an itemized list,” said Cross, who had passed out materials prior to speaking. “It took me all of about six seconds to find that information on the internet.”

Cross read that “BESS failures are a serious, worldwide problem affecting lives and property and potentially causing vast ecological harm — regardless of country, location, current safety measures,… the age of the system, the size of the system, or the system status.”

An existing RDF Renewables BESS near Chicago. Photo via RDF Renewables’ presentation to Napanee Council.

“Ultimately,” he went on, “BESS projects within Canada — which has a reliable and safe energy production system, encompassing hydroelectric, nuclear, and other energy production facilities — are not necessary. BESS is not an energy production method… The systems do not at all address Co2 production. BESS systems are not incorporated into existing generating stations and are solely business ventures using catchy words such as ‘climate change’ as a misnomer and rhetorical business mythology.”

Cross, who did not mention any relevant experience or credentials during his deputation, asserted that BESS projects that are separate from generating stations “use the cloak of climate change to gain governmental grants and public traction” in order to build their projects – projects that have a “proven track record of failures and use extremely hazardous and toxic materials” in their systems. He went on to propose that the project in question would “likely buy energy from Ontario Hydro or Ontario Power Generation” during low usage times at a discount, and then “resell that energy” back to the original suppliers during peak times.

“This is a business. I do not have any problems with businesses, but I do not believe we need toxic businesses within Greater Napanee,” he stated, seemingly referring to the aforementioned toxic materials used in the BESS systems, rather than toxic business practices.

Cross then questioned “the validity” of the need for BESSs, noting that the Lennox Power Generating Station currently operates at 1.5 per cent capacity on average during the year.

“The Napanee Generating Station will not be closing and covers any and all power production that may be lost by the closure of the Lennox Station,” he said.

After noting the already-approved BESS project to be built next to the Napanee Generating Station is “still dangerous,” Cross implied it is a better concept, as it will be “monitored and managed” by the same corporation and on-site staff.

 “For the safety of our children, the quality of our life, the future of our municipality, and our families, I would be opposed to any further business ventures, or any related ventures to deal with such toxic materials,” he concluded.

“BESS is a battery: it doesn’t produce energy; it just stores it – Nothing green about this.”

Council also voted to note and receive Cross’s deputation. The mayor thanked him for his presentation and said he would ensure the clerk had all the materials Cross had provided.

As always, you can read full Council meeting agendas on Napanee’s civic web online, and watch meetings live or recorded on the town’s YouTube channel.

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