IESO Reports Confirm Work Must Begin Now to Realize Waterpower Potential

Role for Pumped Storage Recognized


December 16, 2022 – Peterborough – Yesterday, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released two (2) reports – the Pathways to Decarbonization (P2D) and the Annual Planning Outlook (APO), both of which emphasize the need to begin to take action now to realize the potential of long-lead time waterpower projects. Importantly, the IESO has also noted that permitting and approvals must be streamlined and that a partnership role for Indigenous communities is a prerequisite for success.

“The improvement of development timelines through regulatory streamlining and the early engagement of Indigenous communities will mean that additional waterpower can contribute more quickly to projected electricity requirements and decarbonization goals,” said Paul Norris, OWA President. “We need to begin by securing our existing perpetual assets and pursuing near-term opportunities to upgrade, expand and retrofit facilities while building the policy foundation for new greenfield development.”

In both reports, the IESO has assumed that all existing waterpower facilities continue to operate for decades to come. In October 2022, the Minister of Energy requested that the IESO develop and implement a Program to re-contract existing waterpower facilities until 2043, including a provision of incentives for facility upgrades and expansions. The Program details are expected to be finalized in 2023.

“I am pleased to see the specific recognition of the role that pumped storage can play in a decarbonized system,” added Norris. “Ontario has significant untapped waterpower potential, including pumped storage, that can make an increased contribution to system reliability as we grow the integration of other energy sources.”

The P2D Report assumes an additional 2,000 MW of long-duration storage is added in the late 2030s to meet adequacy needs and notes that the IESO should pursue a deeper understanding of the role of long-duration storage such as pumped water, contributing to reliability needs that would allow the province to reduce its reliance on natural gas earlier. As referenced in the recent Auditor General’s Report, Ontario has 4,000-5,000 MW of untapped waterpower potential. The OWA has estimated that ~200 MW could be developed in the near-term through projects at existing infrastructure.



Paul Norris, President
Ontario Waterpower Association

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