With a new government in Ontario, an election underway in Quebec, and one on the horizon in Alberta, Canada’s wind energy industry is keenly focused on the potential for policy, legislative and regulatory changes. At the CanWEA Annual Conference and Exhibition, plenary session experts will take stock, calibrate expectations and share insights on Finding Opportunities in Change.
We sat down with Brandy Giannetta, Ontario Regional Director for CanWEA, to get an insider’s perspective on what Ontario’s new government has in play for the wind energy industry.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Let’s start by setting the scene – what can attendees expect from your session?
Brandy Giannetta: This panel will provide a trusted voice to the industry about the priorities of Ontario’s new government and where we see wind playing a significant role. The three panelists represent a brain trust and a wealth of knowledge. They know the politics, they know the policy, and they know the history of the industry and the broader energy sector. This session will give a big picture overview of where we are as an industry, what we might expect from political changes, and what we need to know about the Ontario energy market going forward. We’re going to dig beyond high-level hypotheses to deliver insights from industry insiders.
Has the evolution of Ontario’s political landscape impacted the wind energy industry in recent years?
Brandy Giannetta: The evolution of the industry in Ontario has coincided with the evolution of the industry globally. Around the world, competition, innovation and investment have dramatically driven down the costs of wind energy to unprecedented levels, and at the same time, concerns about the impact of electricity generation on the environment have gone up.
Over the last decade, Ontario capitalized on these trends with investment in clean electricity infrastructure and began the transition toward a low-carbon economy. Wind energy has played a big part in that. Ontario is home to over 5,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, the largest of all Canadian provinces.
This was achieved with policy direction to eliminate coal, transition toward non-emitting resources, and supply the grid with renewable energy. The majority of the new renewable energy supply that replaced coal came from wind energy. This direction allowed wind, both as an industry and as an electricity supply resource, to move from the margins to the mainstream in Ontario, as is happening around the world. Today in Ontario, wind energy is right up there, operating within the IESO-administered wholesale market, with other resources like nuclear and hydro.
How is the current political landscape impacting the wind energy industry?
Brandy Giannetta: In June, Ontarians elected a new government. We moved from 15 years of Liberal governments to a Progressive Conservative majority. With this change comes a different ideological environment. It’s still new, it’s still in transition, and there are still areas of uncertainty in terms of energy policy.
We have seen swift action from this new government on its energy priorities. It has proceeded with dismantling Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and will cancel the cap-and-trade program. It is not clear what will replace these plans and programs or how a carbon price will be managed in Ontario. It has also canceled hundreds of green energy contracts in an effort to demonstrate its commitment to finding efficiencies in the sector. This was a disappointing first action and created concern among the investment community.
Wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners, and are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. What the industry and investors rely on to return these benefits are clear policy and market signals. That goes for both existing operational assets as well as new procurement opportunities.
Looking ahead, we believe there will be a need for new electricity supply in the early 2020s – this is one thing about which we are seeking more clarity. Despite this uncertainty, we are confident that the wind energy industry is best positioned to meet the government’s priorities of affordable, clean and reliable electricity that benefits the province’s economy and communities. Let’s remind people – wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario and across Canada.
How can the wind energy industry increase awareness about the potential for wind energy to address current provincial priorities?
Brandy Giannetta: It’s imperative that we keep in mind what success looks like from the perspective of all stakeholders. There are policy goals. There are supply and demand needs that must be cost-effectively and reliably balanced by system operators. There are investors and developers who use market signals to make decisions. Ratepayers need affordability. Communities need to thrive. We have lots of work to do and it begins with communicating with elected officials across the political spectrum and decision-makers in the regulatory sphere.
We need to work with the Independent Electric System Operator (IESO), for example, which has prioritized a market-based approach and market reform. It is modernizing the way it procures, dispatches and manages electricity within the system. Wind energy has an active role in this evolution.
In Canada, and around the world, leaders are taking steps to transition to low carbon power systems. The policy and regulatory actions that Ontario takes going forward will have an impact on how the grid continues to evolve, what path the market reforms will take, and how the playing field shakes out for the various technologies that must work together to power the grid of the future.
What are you most looking forward to at the CanWEA Annual Conference and Exhibition?
Brandy Giannetta: The CanWEA Conference and Exhibition is the largest forum on wind energy in the country. It’s an annual highlight for the industry. There isn’t any one single thing I look forward to—it’s about exploring the role for wind energy as one of a number of complementary technologies that are working together to change the way we produce and use power, to change the way the grid works to meets needs, to make the grid more diverse, more flexible, more participatory, and cleaner. It’s all very exciting.
You can find Brandy on-stage moderating the Ontario – An Overview of the New Political and Policy Landscape panel during the “Finding Opportunities in Change” plenary session on October 24, 9.00-10.30 am.
Brandy Giannetta has been the Ontario Regional Director with the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) since 2012. Brandy leads the Ontario-based membership in CanWEA’s efforts to serve as Canada’s leading source of credible information about wind energy and its social, economic and environmental benefits. Brandy represents the constituency of Generators on the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Stakeholder Advisory Committee. She also holds a seat on the IESO’s Market Renewal Working Group. Brandy has maintained a position on the Advisory Board of Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) since 2013 when the organization was formed.
Looking for more wind energy insights?
The Annual Canadian Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition is the meeting point for all members of the wind energy industry – top business executives, technical experts, decision and policy makers, and government representatives – to come together and address the key issues facing the industry today. Join us October 23-25, 2018 at the BMO Centre in Calgary, Alberta.