In order to streamline existing renewable energy accessibility programme offerings, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) of Ontario has issued draft program rules for a new Energy Partnerships Programme (EPP), a move that closely follows the larger folding of the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) into the IESO at the start of the year.
Prior to the merger, the OPA was mandated to improve community access to investment opportunities in renewable energy projects, which it accomplished through six unique programmes.
The new EPP will consolidate the Community Energy Partnerships Programme (CEPP), which until very recently was managed by a third party, the Municipal and Public Sector Energy Partnerships Programme (MPSEPP), the Aboriginal Renewable Energy Fund (AREF), and the Aboriginal Transmission Fund (ATF) programmes, with the aim of continuing support for Aboriginal communities, co-operatives, municipalities and public sector entities, according to IESO Director of Policy and Analysis Barbara Ellard.
“Fundamentally, when you look at the EPP, it really is borne out of the existing programmes that we have, so from our perspective it's evolution, not revolution,” Ellard said. “Five out of the six [programmes] were in-house anyhow, so we took the CEPP in house as well. Really the impetus was that we now have them all under one roof, and four of the six provided the same type of funding, either just for different projects or for different target audiences.”
Ellard said that consolidation presents benefits for both the IESO, through reduction of redundancies, and to its customers by providing them singular access to all programmes in which they may wish to participate.
“Our programmes always have to adapt and change to make sure we keep up with the changes on the feed-in tariff programme. By consolidating the programmes, and by some other background mechanical issues, we're allowing ourselves the flexibility to adapt the funding to where it's going to be needed the most. That's really from our perspective where one of the big gains will come from,” Ellard said.
“From an administration and organisation point of view and also from an access point of view from an applicant's perspective, we believe that consolidating that will provide some overall benefits.”
Two funding streams will be combined into the new programme – the partnership and project development streams, the latter including the remote project development sub-stream, which all combined represent $10 million in budgetary considerations. Throughout their lifetime, Ellard said the programmes that will be combined into the EPP have provided collectively just under $18 million in support.
Through June 19, IESO will be accepting comments from aboriginal communities, municipalities, co-operatives and other eligible public sector entities that will inform the expected July launch of the programme. While Ellard said they have already begun receiving comments, she added that it is too early to comment on how those insights will effect deployment of the EPP.