As part of ongoing efforts to modernize the province of Ontario’s 50-year-old environmental assessment program, the Ontario government announced changes to build low-risk waterpower projects faster, such as such as expansions or changes to an existing facility.

Ontario has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world, with more than 90 per cent of electricity generation being emissions-free, and the new changes to Class Environmental Assessment for Waterpower Projects will help generate the clean, renewable and affordable hydroelectricity needed to meet the province’s long-term needs.

“We want to speed up the development of sustainable, renewable energy projects that will actually benefit our communities,” said David Piccini, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks. “Waterpower is a clean renewable energy source, which is paving the way to providing reliable and affordable power to communities and creating green jobs across the province.”

The changes will align the level of risk with the level of assessment to ensure strong environmental oversight and protection. The changes also include creating a streamlined process for identifying waterpower projects that are expected to have no or short-term environmental impacts, such as implementing new technology, undertaking a small dam retrofit or expansion; and, exempting them from environmental assessment requirements, which can often take months or even years to complete. These changes will reduce the time and cost it takes to get projects underway, which will help create jobs that support Ontario’s green economy and deliver clean and reliable energy to communities across the province.

Water power diagram courtesy of the Ontario Waterpower Association.

“This improvement to our Class Environmental Assessment will encourage new investment in infrastructure across the province while maintaining environmental sustainability,” said Paul Norris, president of the Ontario Waterpower Association. “Waterpower was Ontario’s original source of electricity and these perpetual assets will continue to provide affordable, reliable energy for decades to come.”

The Ontario Waterpower Association’s Class EA for Waterpower Projects sets out a standard planning process for the 224 waterpower facilities across the province.

Featured image: The Adam Beck hydroelectric station in Ontario.

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