Electrical power work is defined in the widest sense in order to identify those firms capable of providing a full service to various clients. As such, the practice encompasses advising existing and prospective market participants (including major investors, lenders, project developers, distributors, public sector entities, and public and private sector consumers) on a host of transactional (e.g., corporate/commercial), regulatory, and policy matters, ranging from the development, structuring, financing, and permitting of energy projects (including nuclear, hydro-electric, oil and gas–fired, and fossil-fuel facilities), the management and retrofitting of existing facilities, co-generation, through to all aspects of the restructuring and deregulation of wholesale and retail electricity markets within a new, competitive framework. Energy (electricity) lawyers also need to keep keenly on top of political developments.
Ontario Switches Course
As described by CTV: “Months after cancelling hundreds of renewable energy contracts, the Ontario government introduced legislation on Thursday September 20, 2018, to scrap a law that aimed to bolster the province’s green energy industry.
“Premier Doug Ford promised during the spring election campaign to repeal the Green Energy Act, which was introduced by the previous Liberal government in 2009 in a bid to grow the province’s solar and wind energy supply.
“Critics of the Act have said it resulted in an increase in electricity costs and saw the province overpay for power it did not need.” 1
Meanwhile in Alberta
The Alberta Government, under former Premier Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP, announced in October 2018: “The time to grow the renewable energy sector in Alberta has arrived. Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan has provided the momentum to push this sector to new heights as the province moves toward renewable energy from sources like wind, solar power, hydroelectric and biomass.”
The Government of Alberta committed to a firm target of 30% of electricity use in Alberta to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. “To help achieve this target, the Government of Alberta supports the Renewable Electricity Program. This program, run by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), will add 5,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity for Albertans by attracting cost-effective investment that does not impact grid reliability.”
However, in April 2019, Alberta elected a United Conservative Party government under Premier Jason Kenney, and on June 10 of that year, the new government to discontinue the Renewable Electricity Program. The government directed AESO to continue to oversee the projects and contracts awarded already and not to proceed with additional competition rounds.
Throughout Canada, there have been more that 30 grid-scale energy storage projects, either in development or fully operational. The technologies used have included pumped hydro, compressed air energy storage, flywheels, lithium ion batteries, hydrogen power, and gas storage.
According to a Norton Rose Fulbright LLP firm bulletin, the current emergence of the energy storage market is different from the “short lived booms” of the past. “The difference now is that developments are not being led solely by the suppliers, inventors and VC investors but by the buyers and users,” the firm states. “Large utilities and retailers are supporting the roll-out of energy storage devices and governments are looking to kick start the industry in the same way as they fostered solar and wind power generation.”2
It’s a global story. Panasonic and GE are developing energy storage projects in India; Sony, Chem, and BYD are also in the market; South Korea has successfully deployed the world’s largest lithium energy storage system; and Mitsubishi recently delivered a high-capacity energy storage system to Japan.
In Europe, Engie and SUSI Partner AG, an investment adviser, are providing about C$50 million to promote energy storage projects. The UK’s RES has signed a four-year contract with National Grid to provide 20MW of frequency response from battery storage. Danish investor Recharge is the majority stakeholder in a hybrid renewal storage project on the Azorean island of Graciosa in Portugal. “The background context continues to be the diversification into storage by utilities, automobile manufacturers and oil and gas companies,” Norton Rose Fulbright states.
Another significant development is the application of blockchain technology to the energy storage market.
“A new, fast and computer automated way of undertaking energy transactions, combined with high penetrations of distributed generation and storage technology has the potential to revolutionise power markets,” Norton Rose Fulbright states.
Things aren’t quite as far along in Canada, where projects are mostly small scale and larger projects still far off. Energy lawyers see more and more e-storage companies being formed and financed, and new products being tested with early adopters.
Leading Canadian companies in the space include Mississauga’s Temporal Power Ltd., which has designed one of the world’s leading flywheel energy storage technologies, and Hydrostor Inc., which has just launched its underwater hydrostatic pressure storage facility near Toronto Island. Otherwise, Ontario has already issued an RFP for energy storage technology, and the province is, along with New York and California, leading regulatory reform in North America.
- Loriggio, Paola. “Ontario government moves to scrap Green Energy Act.” CTV News. September 20, 2018. https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/ontario-government-moves-to-scrap-green-energy-act-1.4102549.
- “Energy Storage Projects: a global overview of trends and developments.” Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP, May 2016. https://www.nortonrosefulbright.com/en-ug/knowledge/publications/f82154b1/energy-storage-projects-a-global-overview-of-trends-and-developments.