The Burritts Rapids Renewable Energy Association (BRREA) was incorporated as a community, non-profit organisation in 2010 following a community meeting on January 5, 2010 and with support from the Burritts Rapids Community Association. The Board is made up of volunteers who live in the Burritts Rapids community.
BRREA's focus is on the development of a small hydro project, generating energy from the Rideau River water flow at the dam site upstream from the village, and using all income (after covering costs) to fund community projects and initiatives.
Annual General Meeting 23 March 2017
We had our 2017 Annual General Meeting on 23 March. A full report on the AGM will be posted in the next few days.
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Important BRREA Update, January 2017
In order to sell electricity to the grid, we require a Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) contract with Hydro One. This contract must be approved by IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator). IESO is an Ontario Crown Corporation under the direction of the Ontario Ministry of Energy. These FIT contracts are awarded through competitive processes held at irregular intervals.
Some background: For IESO's FIT2 competition in 2012 we were rejected by IESO's predecessor Ontario Power Generation (OPG) because there was supposedly no viable connection point nearby for us to connect to, even though the high capacity line we required was already under construction to connect to the huge solar farm almost directly across the road from our dam. For FIT4 in 2015 IESO had applications for significantly more generating capacity than was available in the competition. IESO rejected about two thirds of the applications for minor paperwork issues (one Water Power applicant was rejected for not putting "N/A" on a blank line). Our big error? We submitted a valid, but apparently the wrong document, as proof of our legal entity and name. This was one of the many documents required, each and every one which had to be absolutely perfectly filled out to even qualify for the actual competitive process. Instead of selecting projects based on the value they bring to Ontario and to their communities, IESO is making these important selection decisions based on minor clerical criteria.
Of the hundreds of FIT contracts awarded in FIT1 through FIT4, almost all were for solar projects at up to seven times the going rate for electricity. In FIT1 through FIT3 only one contract was awarded for a waterpower project, and that was a very small project at the going rate. In FIT4 a handful of waterpower projects were awarded contracts at a small premium above the going rate, although the majority of waterpower projects were rejected for paperwork issues unrelated to the merits of the project. The emphasis on solar energy means that Ontario has lots of very expensive electricity on sunny days but is short of electricity from reasonably priced renewable sources at night and on bad weather days. There has been little effort made to diversify Ontario's renewable energy supply with more sources like waterpower or biomass (methane from cow poop) that are available on a 24/7/365 basis.
We have applied again as part of the FIT5 competition in October 2016. As part of the on-line application process we had to select which Transmission Station (TS) we will connect through from IESO's Transmission Availability Table (TAT). The TAT they released for FIT5 shows that the Smiths Falls TS, the one we have to connect through, as well as other TS's throughout Ontario had no available capacity and thus weren't available to select. The Smiths Falls TS is owned and operated by Hydro One, and Hydro One assures us there is plenty of capacity, especially for a small project such as ours.
IESO actually agreed verbally that there is capacity but they don't want to open up that capacity for any more solar or wind FIT contracts. Waterpower, biomass and other renewable energy projects in Eastern Ontario are collateral damage of this policy. The issue, as described by IESO's Director of Renewable Energy Procurement during a meeting with our representatives, is that supply may sometimes exceed demand at the Smiths Falls TS, resulting in "congestion". In our opinion, what this really means is that if all else fails they may have to sell off any excess power for a fraction of the price they paid for it, if it can't be used elsewhere in Ontario, rather than cutting off non-renewable generation in favour of renewable energy generation, which the Government claims to be encouraging.
In discussion with a Hydro One engineer, he confirmed that he had no knowledge of "congestion" at the Smiths Falls TS and even provided us with written confirmation from Hydro One, that capacity for our project was available at the Smiths Falls TS, although he was also careful to point out that IESO has the final word.
Parks Canada, who own our dam site as well as many other dams in the region, and the Ontario Waterpower Association have had meetings with IESO on this TAT availability issue, since it affects many waterpower projects throughout Ontario. IESO's position is that they will not change their policy without direction from the Ontario Energy Ministry.
Our always supportive MPP, Steve Clark, has put us in touch with the Office of the Hon. Glenn Thibeault, Minister of Energy. The Minister's Renewable Energy Policy Advisor appears to be sympathetic and has been in touch with IESO to clarify the situation. We have had several positive discussions with her.
We are in a Catch-22 situation. IESO will not change their policy without the Ministry's direction; the Ministry so far has not indicated they will give that direction. Our thanks to Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Scott Moffat from the City of Ottawa for contacting the Minister on our behalf, requesting that the Minister intervene with the IESO. We are arranging to meet with the Minister's Policy Advisor and will post another update with the results of that meeting.
It's not over yet.
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Parks Canada Burritts Rapids Earth Dam Project
Parks Canada is working on a project to rehabilitate the earth dams that make up a good part of the Burritts Rapids Island. While this project isn't part of the BRREA Small Hydro Project, it is happening in the same vicinity and the two projects will likely have some effects on each other. To keep our stakeholders informed on the Earth Dam project we have set up an Earth Dam page on our website.
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We have created a Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/brrea/ to encourage community discussion around this project.
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Check out our "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)" page, where we answer your questions.
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