Technical Careers in Ontario’s Energy Sector
Ontario’s Independent Electricity Market Operator recently released a study on the province’s electricity needs in the next 10 years. The report showed that there may be a possible shortfall of electricity supply due to the following factors:
- the government’s promise to close the province’s five coal plants by 2007;
- uncertainties about the refurbishment of nuclear reactors at the Pickering nuclear station; and
- a lack of investment in new generation .
Natural Resources Minister David Ramsay announced that Ontario will open Crown land for companies to build wind farms and small water-powered electricity plants. Energy Minister Dwight Duncan said that by mid-April 2004, the province will issue requests for proposals to build up to 2,500 megawatts (MW) of new electricity generating capacity by 2005, as well as 300 megawatts of renewable energy. While encouraging investment in electricity generation plants, the current Liberal government will allow the Ontario Energy Board, the regulator of Ontario’s natural gas and electricity industries, to set electricity prices. Minister Duncan estimated that it will cost $30 billion to $40 billion over the next 20 years to renew the power generation system in Ontario. By 2020, it is projected that approximately 18,000 MW of Ontario’s existing electricity generating capacity will need to be refurbished or replaced.
The challenge for Ontario Power Generation will be to renew its group of technical experts . When restructuring began in the early 1990s, many skilled and experienced engineers and managers were let go . But these were the human resources who knew the system, how it worked, and when it needed improvement. There have been fewer new hires and a significant dependence on aging workers to work longer hours to get the job done. If the government builds or refurbishes generating capacity to meet electricity demand, who will provide the technical support? Could foreign-trained professionals and trades people be part of the solution?
Crown land : land which is owned and managed by the Canadian government
Experts (noun): People with special knowledge or ability
Generation : (noun) production of electricity
Independent Electricity Market Operator (IMO): a non-profit corporation in Ontario that balances the supply and demand of electricity
Let go (phrasal verb): to be fired
Megawatts, MW : one million watts, especially as a measure of electrical power as generated by power stations
Ontario Power Generation (OPG): a provincial corporation that produces and sells electricity
Projected (verb): planned for the future; estimated
Refurbishment (noun): restoration; repair; replacement of parts
Regulator (noun): The provincial government agency responsible for the control and regulation of the electricity industry.
Restructure (verb): to reorganize a company in order to work better without wasting time, effort or expense
Wind farm : a power plant that uses wind turbines to produce electricity
- Government must revitalize public power, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, April 1, 2004 .
- Ontario warned of looming electricity crisis , The Globe and Mail, March 31, 2004.
- Bring the experts back to fix our hydro system, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, March 31, 2004.
- Energy Minister Announces Plan to Address First Third of Coal Commitment, News Release, The Ministry of Energy, January 20, 2004.
- 10 points to enlighten the energy minister , The Kitchener-Waterloo Record, December 13, 2003.
The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) : the regulator of Ontario’s natural gas and electricity industries. In the electricity sector, the Board sets transmission and distribution rates, and approves the Independent Electricity Market Operator (IMO)’s budget and fees.