The Ontario government 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 ratepayer 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. 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 the proposed project costs and timelines, as well as the technical expertise and financial capability of proponents not already regulated by the OEB. 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 for their projects as filed with the OEB.
On December 19, 2019, the OEB issued draft Guidelines for Potential Projects to Expand Access to Natural Gas Distribution for stakeholder comment. We received comments from 21 stakeholders, including natural gas distributors, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas service providers, ratepayer groups, industry associations, environmental groups and groups representing Indigenous peoples.
On March 5, 2020, the OEB issued its final Guidelines for Potential Projects to Expand Access to Natural Gas Distribution. The OEB stated that interested project proponents that wish to file project information for inclusion in the OEB’s Report to the Ministry must do so by June 3, 2020.
On April 29, 2020, the OEB issued a letter providing an opportunity for proponents to identify any project proposals that may not be completed by the June 3, 2020 deadline due to the COVID-19 emergency. The letter also asked proponents to indicate if they would benefit from a 60-day extension to address the disruption caused by the COVID-19 emergency. The OEB stated that information provided by proponents in response to the letter would be shared with the Ministry for its consideration regarding this initiative.
On May 15, 2020, the OEB received a letter from the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Associate Minister of Energy granting a 60-day extension for the OEB to submit the Report from August 31 to October 31, 2020. Accordingly, the OEB will extend the deadline for proponents to file project information to August 4, 2020
Project information for eligible projects provided by interested proponents will be posted on the OEB’s website after the deadline for filing information has passed.
The OEB does not anticipate inviting comments on the proposed expansion projects. Decisions as to which proposed projects will be eligible for ratepayer-funded financial support will be made by the government.