Home > Ontario's Power System > Regional Planning > Regional Planning Process

Regional Planning Process

Learn more about Regional Planning in Ontario

Get involved in regional planning activities in your region, see Regional and Community Engagement

Regional system planning looks at reliability at the regional or local level. It considers any overlapping or bulk or distribution planning, as well as any Municipal Energy Plans underway.  Regional planning is a continual process, evaluated every five years, with plans developed for a 20-year outlook. It identifies local electricity needs and develops recommendations to maintain a reliable electricity supply to the region. 

Regional Planning at a Glance


Needs Screening

A Needs Screening is the first phase in the Regional Planning process and it is initiated by a planning trigger. Examples of a planning trigger include:

  • regularly scheduled Needs Screening by the transmitter (every five years)
  • a need brought forward by the transmitter, distributors, customers, or the IESO, such as an inquiry regarding the ability of the power system to accommodate a capacity increase by an existing customer or a new customer connection request
  • regional system reliability or delivery performance issues

The Needs Screening process is led by the transmitter. The IESO and local distribution companies (LDCs) operating within the region provide the transmitter with appropriate data, such as preliminary load forecasts, for analysis. The analysis looks at changes in demand seen at the supply points and performs an initial screen to identify needs in the region or sub-regions. When needs require coordination at the regional or sub-regional level, a Scoping Assessment is initiated.  

If coordinated regional planning is not required, any necessary infrastructure investments will be determined directly by the LDC in conjunction with the transmitter.​

Scoping Assessment

In this stage, the IESO leads the process in which the Regional Participants, comprised of the transmitter, LDCs and the IESO, determine the appropriate regional planning approach – either a Regional Infrastructure Plan (RIP) or an Integrated Regional Resource Plan (IRRP).

The deliverable at this stage is a Scoping Assessment Outcome Report which includes:

  • the recommended study approach - IRRP or RIP
  • a preliminary Terms of Reference must completed by the Regional Participants for an IRRP and by the transmitter for an RIP; the Terms of Reference identify any sub-regions which need to be established
  • an outcome of the Scoping Assessment can include the affected LDC and transmitter working together to directly plan necessary infrastructure investments.

An IESO-led Integrated Regional Resource Plan (IRRP) Process is initiated whenever there is potential for alternatives, such as conservation or generation, to contribute to an integrated solution.

 A Regional Infrastructure Plan (RIP) focuses on wires only solutions and is led by the transmitter. 

The Scoping Assessment Outcome Report is posted for public comment for a two-week period on the IESO's webpage for that region. Input received is considered in finalizing the report, which will also be posted.

At this stage, community and stakeholder engagement will begin with outreach to municipalities and First Nation and Métis communities. This outreach is designed to introduce the regional planning process to the communities, provide information on the scoping assessment process and collect any information required at that time.

Integrated Regional Resource Plan Development (IRRP)

If the Scoping Assessment Outcome Report determines that an IRRP is required, a Working Group, comprised of the IESO, transmitter, and LDCs, collaborates on the comprehensive planning process for developing integrated solutions to address the electricity needs of the region.

The IRRP compares relevant resource options such as conservation and demand management, distributed generation, large-scale generation, transmission and distribution. The plan considers options in terms of their feasibility, cost, reliability, Government Policy directives (such as the Conservation First initiative), environmental performance and societal acceptance. Choices are made regarding the preferred alternative for meeting the area's needs, and decisions regarding the implementation and monitoring plan are determined.

While IRRPs are 20-year plans, they are generally divided into three time periods – they identify specific priorities and actions for the near term (0-5 years) and medium-term (5-10 years), and develop options which should be preserved for the long term (10-20 years). Plans are reviewed every five years, or earlier if needed.

Community and stakeholder engagement continues throughout this phase and when required, the process to establish a Local Advisory Committee (LAC) will begin. Local input and recommendations, information on local priorities, and ideas on the design of community engagement strategies will be considered throughout the planning processes. 

Read more about Local Advisory Committees.

Regional Infrastructure Planning (RIP)

Regional Infrastructure Planning begins when a wires-only approach is identified as the best means to address the needs of a region or its sub-regions. The determination can occur at three points in the regional planning process.

  1. Following the Scoping Assessment if it is determined that the needs of the region or sub-region(s) cannot be addressed by alternative resources
  2. Once the IRRP has been initiated and the subsequent analysis determines that a wires-only solution is a component of the near-term solution, its implementation is initiated by a "hand-off" letter from the IESO to the transmitter while the IRRP process continues
  3. Upon completion of the IRRP process, if it is determined that a wires-only solution is a component of the overall integrated solution for the region or sub-area within a region

The transmitter will confirm the LDCs and other agencies needed to participate in the planning study(s). The RIP will outline the scope of the study, describe assumptions, confirm needs and explain the rationale for the wires-only solutions recommended.

When an IRRP process determines that wires-only solutions are needed to resolve near-term needs in a region or sub-region, a "hand-off" letter is produced by the IESO and sent to the transmitter to begin the RIP process. Projects resulting from a RIP will include an implementation plan developed by the transmitter, which outlines various roles, responsibilities, monitoring, and project timelines.

Regional Planning and Community Engagement

Enhancing relationships with communities, key partners and stakeholders by establishing a two-way dialogue is important to the regional planning process. Building understanding around the electricity planning processes and the role of regional planning, and explaining where there are opportunities for participation throughout, is pivotal to the success of electricity planning in Ontario.

To advance the dialogue on regional planning, in August 2013, the OPA and the IESO developed a report titled Engaging Local Communities in Ontario's Electricity Planning Continuum. The report outlines recommendations to enhance regional electricity planning including: strengthening the process for early and sustained engagement with municipalities and First Nation and Métis communities; linking local and provincial planning; and enhancing electricity awareness and access to information. In October 2013, the report's recommendations were adopted by the provincial government and subsequently referenced in the 2013 Long-Term Energy Plan. ​

Community and stakeholder engagement begins with outreach to municipalities and First Nation and Métis communities. If required, Local Advisory Committees (LACs) are formed to represent communities and other interests within the study area. They also provide input to the Working Group on the needs and the options identified within the plan. LACs will provide an avenue to have a broader energy dialogue, be the bridge between planning cycles and will provide insight into the values and perspectives of the communities within the IRRP study area.

Learn more about Regional and Community Engagement and opportunities to get involved.   

Read more about Local Advisory Committees.

The Local Advisory Committees and the engagement on the regional plans provides context for, but does not replace, community engagement undertaken by the transmitter or LDCs on specific projects.

The Evolution of Regional Planning in Ontario

Regional planning is not a new concept in Ontario. The former Ontario Hydro conducted regional supply planning for the province up until the restructuring of the electricity industry in 2000. Following its restructuring, regional planning was conducted on an "as needed" basis by transmitters.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) began planning activities in 2005 to address electricity supply adequacy and reliability needs. Through engagement with distributors, transmitters, the IESO and other stakeholders, the OPA developed the Supply Mix Advice, and the Integrated Power System Plan (which outlined plans within a number of regional areas). In the ensuing years, the OPA initiated a number of integrated regional plans in areas of the province where needs were identified. These plans were conducted on a voluntary basis with technical working groups consisting of the OPA, the local LDCs, the transmitter and the IESO.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) released a report in 2012 entitled Renewed Regulatory Framework for Electricity: A Performance-Based Approach (RRFE), which included direction to develop a more formalized process for regional planning. To achieve the outcomes reported in the RRFE, the OEB convened a "Planning Process Working Group" (PPWG) to develop a structured and transparent regional planning process.

The PPWG released its Working Group Report to the Board, detailing the new regional planning process in May 2013. The OEB endorsed the Working Group Report and formalized the process timelines through changes to the Transmission System Code and Distribution System Code in August 2013, as well as through changes to the OPA's Licence in October 2013.

Going forward, a new Regional Planning Process Advisory Group (RPPAG) has been established to review and evaluate the regional planning process and to make necessary modifications to the process.