Energy & Power
Is hydropower “the forgotten renewable”?
By Anthony Capkun
September 2, 2020 – My initial thoughts about waterpower was that it is a very niche, very closed market, available only to select EPCs and, of course, large electric utilities.
I was wrong.
Paul Norris, president of the Ontario Waterpower Association, explained that while my assumption may be appropriate for other jurisdictions, Ontario is quite different.
The province was—and continues to be—the hub of small hydro. In fact, of the 225 waterpower facilities across the province, 60% can be considered “small hydro”, making Ontario quite unique among other North American jurisdiction.
Hydropower is often “the forgotten renewable,” said Paul, reminding me that Ontario has some three dozen waterpower assets that have been generating electricity for over 100 years. But the industry is by no means resting on its laurels.
There are significant waterpower opportunities in the province: some of those may be new projects in Ontario’s north, while other opportunities involve optimizing existing assets to raise capacity, and still others may involve tackling assets (i.e. dams) that currently produce no electricity.
Speaking of Ontario’s north, Paul pointed out that some two dozen First Nations communities have no connection to the grid, yet 21 of those 23 communities have small hydro potential right in their backyards.
Oh, and let’s not forget pumped storage.
“It’s a vibrant industry in the Province of Ontario,” said Paul. “It’s an industry that’s proven time and time again it’s ability to innovate, adopt and adjust, so we have a bright future in the province.”
Discussions will revolve around restarting Ontario’s economy, and the role that hydro can play with that, Paul says, adding, “We will be focused on lessons learned through the pandemic; we’ll have a really good conversation about what it looks like to build back better”.