How the Process Works

Regional planning is a continual process, with electricity reliability evaluated at minimum every five years in each region.

An Introduction to Regional Planning and Ontario’s Electricity Future

Needs Assessment

The first step in the regional planning process is a Needs Assessment that looks at changes in demand in a given area and performs an initial screen to identify needs in the region or sub-regions. This can happen when:

  • scheduled by the transmitter (every five years)
  • a need is brought forward by the transmitter, distributors, customers or the IESO, such as the ability of the system to handle a request for more electricity from a new or existing customer 
  • reliability or delivery performance issues at the regional level are raised

This analysis is led by the transmitter with data supplied by the IESO and the local distribution companies (LDCs).

The results of the assessment might show that no action is needed, or that the distributor and the transmitter can coordinate a solution such as a facility upgrade, on their own.

If the results show that there are needs that require coordination at the regional or sub-regional level, the process will then move to a Scoping Assessment.

Scoping Assessment

In this stage, the IESO leads the process, working with the transmitter and the LDCs to determine the best planning approach. 

  • If there is the potential to integrate a mix of different options, such as conservation, generation, distribution or new technologies, an Integrated Regional Resource Plan (IRRP) will be recommended.
  • If needs can be met through focusing only on wires, meaning additions or improvements to transmission lines or infrastructure, a Regional Infrastructure Plan (RIP) led by the transmitter will be recommended.
  • A third option includes the local LDC and the transmitter working together to plan necessary local infrastructure investments.

Initial recommendations from this process are published in a Scoping Assessment Outcome Report and are posted for public comment for two weeks on the webpage for the regional planning area. The final report, also posted on the website, considers all comments.

Community Engagement

At this stage, community and stakeholder engagement begins with outreach to municipalities and Indigenous communities. Intended to introduce the regional planning process and the potential for involvement, this initial outreach provides details on the Scoping Assessment and focuses on collecting any information required at that time.

Integrated Regional Resource Plan (IRRP) Development

If the Scoping Assessment Outcome Report determines that an IRRP is required, a Working Group, comprised of the IESO, transmitter, and LDCs, works together to develop a plan that integrates a variety of resource options to address the electricity needs of the region.

These options can include:

  • conservation and demand management
  • distributed generation
  • large-scale generation
  • transmission
  • distribution
  • innovative solutions , such as distributed energy resources, which can include renewable generation, energy storage, combined heat and power, and microgrids

An integrated plan also considers options in terms of their feasibility, cost, reliability, government policy directives (such as the Conservation First initiative and Long-Term Energy Plan), environmental performance  and community preferences. The Working Group then makes a recommendation for meeting needs, as well as how to best implement and monitor the plan.

While IRRPs are 20-year plans, they generally identify specific priorities and actions to meet any needs for the near term (0-5 years) and medium term (5-10 years), as well as developing options which should be preserved for the long term (10-20 years).

Community and stakeholder engagement continues throughout the IRRP phase.

An ongoing dialogue serves to build understanding of how regional planning happens and provides opportunities for local input, laying the foundation for successful implementation.

Regional Infrastructure Planning

If a wires-only, or a transmission-based approach, is identified as the best way to address planning needs, a Regional Infrastructure Plan (RIP) begins. Led by the transmitter, this can happen at three points in the regional planning process:

  • Following the Scoping Assessment, if it is determined that needs cannot be met by alternative resources
  • During the IRRP process, if an analysis determines that a wires-only solution is a part of the near-term solution. In this case, the IESO will send a "hand-off" letter to the transmitter to begin the RIP process while the IRRP process continues
  • Upon completion of the IRRP process, if it is determined that a wires-only solution is a part of the overall integrated solution for the region or sub-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 planning assumptions, confirm needs and explain the rationale for the wires-only solutions recommended.