What do you get when you put two utilities and a provincial power agency in a room together? A power planning brownout.

The Central Toronto Region Integrated Regional Resource Plan is the less-than-electrifying result of the joint effort of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), Hydro One and Toronto Hydro to address how to keep the lights on in what is essentially the old City of Toronto.

What it really does is maintain an absolute status quo approach to power planning despite the massive changes taking place in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage today.

For example, the plan calls for the development of exactly one new energy conservation program. At a time when technologies like LED lighting and intelligent power controls are taking off, our energy planners are still in denial about the power of efficiency to reshape power demand in our biggest city.

Similarly, instead of embracing small-scale power generation to increase our ability to keep the lights on in the event of a provincial or eastern North American blackout, the plan sticks to the old-school model of a couple of transmission lines carrying power to the city from distant nuclear stations.

The result is that the plan fails in its No. 1 objective: Keeping the lights on. It leaves the current regime of largely inadequate emergency power systems in place for vital services like hospitals and transit as well as for our growing sea of condos and high rises. These current systems are not designed to keep systems running and buildings habitable: they are designed to allow for orderly shutdowns and building evacuations. Not what people want or expect.

Ignoring the potential for greater use of combined heat and power systems that can keep hospitals fully functional and condo towers habitable during extended blackouts makes little sense. So does not stepping up efforts to use energy more efficiently in an area where power demand is growing with every new condo tower and office skyscraper.

But if your business is moving power from big nuclear plants, it makes little sense to adopt new approaches that will undercut the need to spend billions re-building those old reactors and millions on new power lines and transformer stations.

The provincial government needs to send the IESO back to the drawing board, and this time it needs to invite some fresh thinking into the room by involving a much wider range of stakeholders in developing a plan that will actually keep the lights on.

Our full analysis of the Toronto IRP is available here.

Please click here to send a letter to Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli asking him to Not Leave Toronto in the Dark.

– Angela Bischoff, Outreach Director