Kingston Council approves blanket municipal support for energy projects, with caveat

Deputy Mayor Wendy Stephen (centre) moved to specifically exclude fossil-fueled projects from Council’s resolution of support for new electricity generation and make it clear that the City’s support is only for renewables. Only Councillor Gary Oosterhof (inset) was opposed. Screen captured image.

Kingston City Council stayed true to its Climate Leadership plan this week, while remaining open to new energy projects.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, Kingston City Council voted to approve a 12-month blanket municipal support resolution for long-term projects, recommended by the Independent Energy System Operator (IESO) — with one amendment.

In a report prepared by Paige Agnew, Commissioner of Community Services for the City of Kingston, City staff recommended that Council provide “a 12-month blanket municipal support resolution for long-term reliability projects in the form prescribed by the Independent Electricity System Operator, the sole purpose [of which] is to facilitate applications made for long-term reliability projects.”

The report notes that “after more than a decade of strong supply, Ontario is entering a period of emerging electricity system needs, driven by increasing demand, the retirement of the Pickering nuclear plant, the refurbishment of other nuclear-generating units, as well as expiring contracts for existing facilities.” Accordingly, recognizing the necessity to address these needs in a timely, cost-effective, and flexible manner, the IESO “has engaged with stakeholders in the development of a resource adequacy framework.” 

As Ontario’s electricity system evolves to become more diverse and dynamic, procurement processes must evolve along with it, the report suggests. The IESO recommended that one mechanism the City could use to support its resource adequacy initiatives would be a Long-Term Request for Proposals (LT1 RFP), which is intended to “acquire capacity services to meet system reliability needs from New Build and Eligible Expansion, Electricity resources starting in 2028 or earlier,” the report states.

In an attempt to competitively procure up to 2m518 megawatts (MW) of year-round capacity, the IESO would accept LT1 RFP applications from September 29 through December 12, 2023. Applications for LT1 contracts will be awarded by the IESO based on a number of criteria, but a demonstration of municipal council support, would in principle provide an advantage to local applicants to the LT1 process according to the report.

Council heard from two delegations who spoke to the report.

First, Grant Johns spoke to the report on behalf of his company Shift Solar, a Canadian renewable energy development firm. Johns said, “We have a project that we’re proposing for the ISO procurement near the city of Kingston within your jurisdiction. It’s my understanding that the CAO has recommended a blanket municipal support resolution for projects in your area.”

Johns didn’t talk at length about the project that his company is proposing for the area except to say that the company works with local landowners “as sort of a middleman between them and long term owner/operators projects. We help develop the projects, permit them, bring them to a shovel ready stage, and then we work with partners that will own and operate these projects long term” and that the specific project is a 100 MW battery… on about 15 acres of non-farmland and we think this is a great win for the city. We believe that there’s a lot of host community benefits that we can provide, as well as making sure that there’s secure energy in your area for the future.”

He voiced the company’s support for the blanket municipal support resolution because it allows “proponents such as myself to gain additional points in the procurement,” and he pointed out that the municipal support is non-binding. “There are no obligations, and it does not preclude us from doing any of the usual permitting or work with the provincial and municipal governments in order to make sure that these projects are safe and operational for the long term.”

McBay’s presentation pointed out, “According to the IESO’s own figures,  their new generating capacity has been dominated by gas and oil.” Screen captured image.

The second delegation was led by Aric McBay, Lead, Integrity of Creation and Climate Change for the Providence Centre for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. McBay, who was representing a group of over 25 signatories — individuals and groups including students and seniors, farmers and urbanites, professors and concerned citizens — asked that Council amend the proposed resolution to explicitly exclude fossil fuel generation from blanket support, or reject the proposed resolution altogether.

McBay pointed out in his presentation that in their request, “the IESO writes that electricity growing demand may be met through diverse resources such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass, nuclear, natural gas, demand response, conservation, storage, or other innovative technologies.” 

“While renewable energy and conservation are important solutions to the climate crisis, new fossil fuel power plants undermine our collective future,” noted McBay. “The IESO Request for Proposals does not include carbon emissions or ecological impact in their evaluation rubric. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to rapidly expand our renewable generation capacity while transitioning away from fossil fuel generation. Unfortunately, that’s not the trajectory that the IESO is currently taking.”

McBay continued, “According to the IESO’s own figures,  their new generating capacity has been dominated by gas and oil. They have more than doubled their use of fossil fuels for electrical generation since 2017… While wind and solar generation have grown over the last five years, fossil fuel generation is being added at more than twice the rate of renewables.”

“As the climate emergency worsens, this is simply not acceptable. We just experienced the warmest September ever recorded, by a large margin. Fossil-fuel-based power generation endangers the health of regular people, both through air pollution and the impacts of extreme heat. At this moment in history, any proposed fossil fuel project should be given deep scrutiny,” the group wrote in its letter. “We don’t believe it is appropriate to give ‘blanket’ support to new fossil fuel burning.”

When the time came, this amendment was indeed moved by Deputy Mayor Wendy Stephen, to specifically exclude fossil-fueled projects from Council’s resolution of support for new electricity generation and make it clear that the City’s support is only for renewables. 

Deputy Mayor Wendy Stephen. Photo courtesy of City of Kingston.

Stephen said, “I think it’s highly unlikely we’re going to see any new gas plants coming here to Kingston. But just to be crystal clear, I think we should put it in writing. Our climate action plan and our strategic plan… both emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship and of climate action. And supporting electricity generated by the burning of fossil fuels would really run counter to the direction we’ve chosen for our city.”

Loyalist-Cataraqui Councillor Paul Chaves said, “When I read this report, I was somewhat confused… I have difficulties writing a blank cheque. And I did ask questions of staff last week and this week, and corresponded with Councillor Stephen yesterday in regards to this issue and the amendment, which satisfies my concern… So I’m very happy to support this [amendment].”

Countryside Councillor Gary Oosterhof stated that he would not support the amendment, although he was “sure it would pass.” He said, “Understanding the electrical system in Ontario and the role that IESO plays,… there’s a complete commitment to decarbonization, and I think it’s important that when they’re making suggestions, that we consider gas. I have learned in the past that politicians can mess up the energy file, and I don’t think it’s probably good at this time to make a declaration like that. And I think that there is a role for gas to play… We have to realize we’re speaking on behalf of 130,000 people in the city who, when they wake up in the morning, want their power to be there.” 

“I don’t think we’ve we’ve read all the information correctly related to energy in this province,” Oosterhof continued, “and so, because of my experience in my career in my lifetime, I won’t support this… I think that we should continue to watch this file carefully… With no gas, we run risks… Wind doesn’t always blow, and other green energy is much weaker. We are so fortunate in this province to have so much energy for the first 100 years, and now we’re demanding that we achieve what we did in 100 years, in 10 years or 12 years. That’s not good management of our grid.” 

After statements of support from some other councillors, the amendment to exclude fossil-fueled projects from the resolution of support passed, with only Oosterhof against. The amended resolution then passed unanimously.

In a note McBay wrote to supporters after the meeting, he was happy to report, “Any new generating projects in the immediate future in Kingston will be based on renewable generation and/or battery storage. Great job, everyone! I’m very proud to be part of a community that can respond so quickly and so decisively while asserting a more positive vision of the future.”

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