The process to connect FIT and microFIT projects to a distribution system is a multi-step effort that requires careful consideration and planning. Connecting your project to the system will involve obtaining approvals and following rules and codes from various bodies that govern the electricity industry. The good news is that the process to get connected has been made easier for smaller generators.
The FIT and microFIT program rules specify both (a) the steps in the IESO’s contracting process for each program; and (b) how those steps relate to and affect the different steps in the generation connection process described below. To promote timely connections and avoid unnecessary work or duplication, generators should ensure that they are familiar at the outset with how and when the two processes intersect.
Key steps in connecting a facility participating in the FIT program
The steps typically involved to connect a generation facility that is participating in the FIT program are summarized in items 1 to 9 below. How long each step takes will vary depending on the size of your generation facility and the available capacity on the distribution system. Larger generators should expect the connection process to take more time than for smaller generators.
To better understand the connection process for generation facilities that participate in the FIT program, please refer to section 6.2 of the OEB’s Distribution System Code (pdf) as well as the IESO FIT program rules.
- Consult with your Distributor: Early in the planning stages, you should consult with the electricity distributor to whose system you intend to connect your project. They will provide information about (i) their connection process, (ii) technical requirements including metering, and (iii) contractual terms and conditions. A list of licensed distributors in Ontario is available here.
- Request a Feasibility Assessment: To discuss connection requirements in more detail, including for a particular size and type of generation facility at a specified location, you should request a preliminary meeting with the distributor. The distributor will provide certain preliminary information at no cost to you for up to three locations. Some electricity distributors, such as Hydro One Networks Inc., provide information relating to their distribution system on their websites.
- Apply to Connect and Obtain a Connection Impact Assessment: You will need to apply, using an application form provided by the electricity distributor, and pay for a Connection Impact Assessment. The Connection Impact Assessment is undertaken by the electricity distributor, who will review the specifications of your project and determine if there is available capacity on the distribution system to connect your facility. You are responsible for the cost of the Connection Impact Assessment.
- Capacity Allocated: Distributors will allocate capacity only after the Connection Impact Assessment and all similar technical reviews by a host distributor and a directly connected transmitter that may be required have been completed. This type of formal capacity allocation is not done for “capacity allocation exempt small embedded generation facilities”* as defined in the Board’s Distribution System Code (pdf).
- Get a Generator Licence: Unless exempt by regulation, persons generating electricity in Ontario for sale require a generator licence from the OEB. Very small generators that have a capacity of 500 kilowatts or less are exempt from the need to obtain a generator licence.
Generators that require a licence and that want to use the streamlined process that the OEB has established for generation facilities under a FIT contract with the IESO must have the FIT contract and must also have received a Notice to Proceed from the IESO before applying for the generation licence.
The generator licence application fee is set at $800 for electricity generators that have a capacity of more than 10 megawatts and at $100 for electricity generators that have a capacity of 10 megawatts or less. Generation facilities larger than 10 megawatts must also pay an annual registration fee of $800. Application forms are available here.
- Metering and Settlement: Metering must support the required settlements and will depend on the choice of connection configuration as well as the size and type of generation facility. The required settlements are determined by the FIT contract, the Board’s codes and applicable regulations.
- Set Up an Account: The electricity distributor is required to set up a separate generator account for you even if there is an associated load. As a separate account, you may be required to pay a monthly charge to the distributor.
- Get a Safety Check: The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) enforces the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. You will need to contact the ESA to have your facility and its connection to the electricity distributor’s system approved. If approved, you (or your contractor) will receive a Certificate of Inspection. The distributor will be issued a Connection Authorization which, in accordance with the Board’s Distribution System Code, is required prior to connection.
- Sign a Connection Agreement: Once all required work and approvals are complete, you will need to sign a connection agreement** with the electricity distributor outlining the key roles and responsibilities of each party. You can find standardized contracts for the connection of different sizes of generation facilities in Appendix E of the Board’s Distribution System Code (pdf) on the OEB website.
** "Connection Agreement" means an agreement entered into between a distributor and a person connected to its distribution system that delineates the conditions of the connection and delivery of electricity to or from that connection.
Key steps in connecting a facility participating in the microFIT program
For facilities that are participating in the microFIT program, the connection process is shorter and easier than it is for larger facilities. Specifically, the following steps do not apply to the connection of microFIT generation facilities: Connection Impact Assessment (step 3 above); the formal capacity allocation process (step 4 above); and the need to obtain a generator licence (step 5 above). Furthermore, the standard connection agreement that you will need to sign (step 9 above) is shorter.
To better understand the connection process for generation facilities that participate in the microFIT program, please refer to sections 6.2.3 and 6.2.5 to 6.2.7 of the OEB’s Distribution System Code (pdf) as well as the IESO microFIT program rules.
Distribution System Code
The Distribution System Code (pdf) is an important regulatory document that all generators should read. Among other things, it sets out obligations that electricity distributors must meet and the processes they need to follow in connecting generation facilities.
For example, a distributor is required to provide some basic information free of charge to assist generators in evaluating their connection options. For all but micro-sized generators, that information includes a description of the portion of the distributor’s system relevant to the proposed generation facility with an up-to-date system schematic map showing major distribution and sub-transmission lines, transformer and distribution stations, and other relevant information. This information can be useful in evaluating whether a proposed generation facility can be accommodated on the distributor’s system.
Section 6.2 of the Distribution System Code describes the connection process, with further details set out in Appendix F (pdf). Appendix E (pdf) of the Distribution System Code contains standard form connection agreements.
The connection process varies with the size of the generator; Appendix F describes processes for four size classes of generator, from micro-sized (10 kW or less) to large-sized generators greater than 10 MW.
Concerns, complaints, questions
The OEB ensures that distributors connect generators to their distribution systems in accordance with applicable law and regulatory requirements. If you have a complaint, concern or question about the connection process, you may contact the Board at IndustryRelations@oeb.ca.
Other agencies also play a role in relation to generation contracts and generation connections. Depending on the nature of your complaint, concern or question, one of the following agencies may be able to assist you: