Ontario Centres of Excellence’s (OCE’s) recent energy leadership workshop, Smart Energy Networks in Toronto brought together nearly 70 senior officials and researchers from the natural gas and electricity sectors last week. The objective of the session was to explore the benefits associated with integrating gas and electricity networks with the overall goal of starting to think about the energy system holistically.
The event discussion also identified areas where R&D is required including conversion and waste heat storage with a number of participants underscoring the need to build awareness amongst policy makers and regulators of the need to think in terms of an integrated approach to infrastructure management.
OCE’s Sector Lead for Energy and Environment and event host Carole Champion called on workshop participants to build relations with one another and “develop a sense of commonality” in preparing to advance a new mindset in Ontario for how to manage energy supply and distribution.
“This is not something that is going to happen overnight,” she said “These are big systems and major infrastructure, not tinker toys. Now is the time for us to identify the pros and cons of integrating wires and pipes and the research and development that needs to be done to take these two systems to the next step.”
OCE, in partnership with NSERC, will issue a call for expressions of interest for R&D funding through the Special Energy Fund in January.
“We come away from this event with a deepened understanding of how we can improve our cross-sector partnerships to bring about cost-effective and diversified alternative energy supplies,” says OCE President Tom Corr. “This will provide tangible results for Ontario that will ultimately further enhance the province’s transition to an innovation-based economy.”
David Teichroeb, from Alternative and Emerging Technology at Enbridge Inc., believes there is high potential for public-private collaboration in developing technological solutions and paving the way for a new policy and regulatory approach that recognizes the need for a new reality in energy management.
“It’s a lot easier to integrate new ideas if the marketplace here in Ontario is accepting of them,” he says. “We want to do more than just demonstrate technological solutions here but to also make Ontario a centre of excellence for really developing, refining and commercializing these good ideas that exist here with Ontario innovators.”