Ontario has announced its intention to further increase access to natural gas by making additional projects eligible for financial support to serve communities that are not currently connected to a natural gas distribution system.
The government intends for approximately $130 million in rate-payer funded financial support to be made available for new projects that can reasonably be expected to commence construction between 2021 and 2023.
On December 12, 2019, through a letter issued under section 35 of the Ontario Energy Board Act, 1998, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, with the support of the Associate Minister of Energy, asked the OEB to examine potential projects and report back to the Ministry as an input to assist the government in making a determination on future expansion projects.
The OEB is expected to report back to the Ministry by August 31, 2020. In early 2020, the OEB will issue a call for information from interested project proponents. A focus of the OEB’s review will be whether the proposed projects can be implemented substantially as proposed. Among other things, the OEB will analyze each proponent’s technical expertise and financial capability and the proposed project costs and timelines. Proponents will be expected to demonstrate local support for their projects, as well as a commitment to be held to the costs, timelines and volume forecasts as set out in their proposals.
The OEB issued draft Guidelines for Potential Projects to Expand Access to Natural Gas Distribution for stakeholder comment in December 2019. The OEB expects to finalize the Guidelines in early 2020, with a view to allowing a period of 90 days within which interested project proponents may then file their information with the OEB.
Subject to confidentiality determinations made by the OEB, project information will be posted on the OEB’s website after the deadline for filing information has passed.
At this time, the OEB does not anticipate inviting comments on the proposed expansion projects. Decisions as to which proposed projects will be eligible for financial support will be made by the government.