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And we better learn, fast.


Overhead view of 8-megawatt battery storage facility in Tehachapi, USA-Wikipedia image

March 1, 2023

Green energy’s newest fad is Battery Energy Storage Systems or BESS, which is being promoted as an add-on to existing renewable power generation facilities to counteract intermittency and unreliability.

Lobbyist the former Canadian Wind Energy Association, now the Canadian Renewable Energy Association or CanREA is actively pushing BESS, and has even gone so far as to add storage to its corporate banner as in, Wind- Solar- Storage.

CanREA is pushing for TEN TIMES the amount of wind and solar we already have in Canada (won’t that look pretty? And cost us all, too) which they say will work with storage.

However, even the influential lobbyist points to concerns. First, there is a need to develop technical requirements for connecting and operating battery storage facilities CanREA says in its document, Laying the Foundation:

“In many jurisdictions, the technical details may be included in the operating documents of the crown owned utility. However, there are other elements, such as the scope of safety and environmental reviews, that will need legislated descriptions or will need to be included in the regulatory documents of the relevant ministry or government department.” (Page 10)

And, CanREA says, regulating authorities may need to get ready for BESS and develop new competencies:

“In most jurisdictions, the mandate and/or rules of the regulating authority (for example the Alberta Utilities Commission) may need to be enhanced. Regulatory authorities will need sufficient expertise to fairly evaluate proposed energy-storage installations.”

Most people don’t know what they are

In response to inquiries from members and the public, and because BESS is being proposed as an add-on to existing wind power installations, Wind Concerns Ontario undertook a review of experiences with BESS around the world, and reports of citizen concerns, as well as the current regulatory environment.

As one Ontario mayor said, most people don’t even know what they are.

Wind Concerns Ontario prepared a report, with the following conclusions:

  • Standards needed for emergencies – As BESS technology is relatively new, standards are rapidly changing in response to emergency situations encountered. Even projects developed by companies with extensive battery experience have experienced serious emergency situations.
  • Not enough information – The requirements for submissions to the IESO and to municipalities when requesting support for the project include few, if any, details on the actual project. The process appears to assume that once a company is awarded an IESO contract based largely on price, it will then proceed to develop the real proposal which will be submitted into an undefined permitting process or processes. Based on information submitted, it is not clear how the IESO will be able to distinguish between proposals with higher prices because they meet high standards for development and those with lower prices because the proposal includes the minimal safety standards.
  • Renewable energy or not? – BESS systems are neither defined as a Renewable Energy project by Regulation 359/09, nor are they included in the list of excluded projects. The intention may be to omit further provincial review of these projects and to proceed directly to the municipal permitting process but this would be a recipe for substantial delay as the building officials in each host municipality (many of which are small rural municipalities) individually develop the expertise needed to assess and approve these projects.
  • Safety regulations? – While Ontario Hydro has defined setbacks from BESS installations to protect their infrastructure, there are no setbacks for BESS installations established in Regulation 359/09 to protect other buildings and activities. Similarly, there are no noise standards for these systems which could create a new enforcement challenge for Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks field staff.
  • Potential for support to be withdrawn – As the submissions to municipalities have included minimal information, there is potential for municipalities to rescind their support resolution once they learn the risks associated with these projects and the municipal resources that will be potentially required to deal with emergency situations.

Clearly, there are significant issues to be addressed.

Ottawa area BESS

Here in Ottawa, a BESS facility was proposed for the recent Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) Request for Proposals for new power generation. Located on Upper Dwyer Hill Road in the West Carleton-March ward of the city, the project is unheard of for most people. The company proposing the project held a public meeting in December but no one showed up. The IESO allows proponents to simply post a notice on their project website. If you don’t even know about the project, how do you know to check for announcements?

Here are the minutes for the “public” meeting:

MINUTES OF PUBLIC COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT City of Ottawa Public Meeting Location: Alexander Community Centre, 960 Silver St, Ottawa, ON K1Z 6H5 Time: 6-7 pm, January 12th, 2023

Long-Term Reliability Project Name: 548

Site Address: 650 Upper Dwyer Hill Road, Ottawa, ON K0A 1A0

Facility: Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS)

Size: 4.99-megawatt/19.96-megawatt hour


Proponents Name: 1000234763 Ontario Inc.

Attendance: • 0 community members •

Proponent – 1000234763 Ontario Inc., representative: o John Kozak, COO • Proponent’s Contractor, SolarBank Corporation (previously, Abundant Solar Energy Inc.) o Tracy Zheng, CAO o Mila Simon, Project Coordinator 6ii

6:00 PM: meeting called to order. Proponent and SolarBank waited for 45 minutes for attendees. No community members showed.

6:45 PM: Meeting adjourned.

Another BESS proposal is in development in Cumberland, that would be ten times the capacity of the Upper Dwyer Hill Rd facility. In response an email inquiry, developer Evolugen (a division of huge power developer Brookfield) replied:

We are still in the process of assessing potential sites for a battery storage energy system in the Cumberland area to respond to two announced procurements (expedited and long-term RFP). The two public meetings were held to gauge at a high level the type of reaction that this type of project would receive in this area. We don’t record public meetings because they are drop-in format rather than a presentation with a Q and A. But we are always available for one-on-one meetings. The IESO released the final RFP document in early December, but had released a series of documents (including a draft RFP) in preceding months to provide project proponents with a general idea of what public outreach requirements were required.  

As we have more information – we will continue to update our project specific website: Rabbit Battery Energy Storage Project – Brookfield Renewable (evolugen.com)

Nick Best, Director, Public Affairs

Another inquiry, this time to the Cumberland Community Association, revealed the association knew nothing about the proposal. Or the public meetings that were held.

Time to ask questions

Doubtless, still more BESS proposals are coming with the IESO set to open up yet another RFP later this year, this time for almost twice as much new power generation.

We need to learn more to be able to ask questions about the impact of these installations on our communities, the environment, and our economy.