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Sault mayor warns: Northern Ontario denied access to new power generation

‘They are crippling our economic development capacity’ - Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker
(Stock image)

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker is sounding a battle cry after learning all of Ontario's new power generation will be going to southern Ontario for the next six years.

Shoemaker says he's been advised that the province's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) won't allow the Sault or other northern communities to participate in the current long-term request for proposals for generating capacity.

This decision, he says, is being attributed to "deliverability issues."

"What the IESO is telling us is: all the new generation is going to be in southern Ontario," Shoemaker says.

"What we're saying is: like heck it is."

"Algoma Steel's electric arc furnaces are going to use all of the power that comes into our community," Shoemaker told this week's meeting of Sault Ste. Marie city council.

"We will have no ability to attract any commercial establishment of any significant power usage until the grid is upgraded, which IESO is telling us will not be until after 2029-ish.

"So for the next six years, we have no capacity to attract businesses if we don't have the upgrade of the new transmission lines prioritized, or generation capacity developed locally to counter that.

"We need generation or a quicker process to upgrade the transmission lines in northern Ontario, otherwise they are crippling our economic development capacity."

The IESO is responsible for ensuring the province is able to produce sufficient electricity to meet demand.

Shoemaker and other city representatives will be buttonholing cabinet ministers at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities Ontario, later this month in London, Ontario.

The following resolution was passed unanimously by city council:

Minister of Energy – Independent Electricity System Operator

Mover: Coun. A. Caputo
Seconder: Coun. M. Scott

Whereas Sault Ste. Marie City Council declared our community as the “Alternative Energy Capital of North America” in 2008;

Whereas Minister Todd Smith wrote a letter of commendation to the City of Sault Ste. Marie as one of Ontario’s Energy Champions in March 2023;

Whereas Sault Ste. Marie will be the first community in Canada to launch a community-wide smart grid;

Whereas the city desires to continue as a leader in the alternative energy sector;

Whereas the Government of Ontario’s, “Powering Ontario’s Growth” plan commits to working towards a 100 per cent clean grid;

Whereas the city saw numerous proponents advance projects for the previous, expedited IESO procurement process for renewable energy generation and storage projects with none being approved in northern Ontario;

Whereas the city has learned that the IESO has determined that energy projects from Sault Ste. Marie and area will not be eligible to participate in the LT-1 RFP process due to “deliverability issues”;

Whereas the Algoma Steel EAF project requires a significant electricity supply;

Whereas Algoma Steel is required to utilize the LSP gas plant to cover electricity requirements for their operations until transmission line upgrades are completed and possibly beyond;

Whereas the use of gas plant incurs greater carbon tax than the use of electricity;

Whereas without added capacity, not only will it delay full implementation of the EAF’s, but also cripple our ability to diversify our economy, prioritizing southern Ontario development over Northern Ontario’s continued sustainability

Whereas the transmission grid is in the process of being upgraded which will enable the deliverability of any generation/storage projects in our region shortly after LT-1 projects are anticipated to be activated;

Whereas Sault Ste. Marie is part of the Ontario grid and our requirements should not be placed behind those of southern Ontario;

Now be it resolved that city council request the mayor to write to the minister of energy and president and CEO of IESO to request a meeting and enable the inclusion of Sault Ste. Marie and region within the LT-1 procurement, and future procurements, of renewable energy and storage projects in Ontario