My OECA Story

2022 was a year marked by continued uncertainties: a lingering pandemic, escalating international strife, and economic challenges. Businesses pivoted or watched others pivoting. Some larger businesses leaped into unforeseen states of dominance while others, especially small to mid-size businesses, reeled under personnel, financial, and operational problems.

In 2022, we merged our family businesses into Waterloo Intuition & Technology Corporation.

My son, Jack, and I have worked together on energy business activities since he was a child, helping me with IT/tech since the 1990’s with energy spreadsheets. In the 2000’s Jack developed energy software. Later, in the 2010’s, Jack led the designing and building energy enterprise portals [ERPs]. While we have worked together for decades, we did not focus on the details of Ontario’s energy sector after our family sold its interests in energy companies to partners in the early 2000’s. We did not want to compete with former partners. We chose to help them build processes and tools so their businesses would grow and prosper.

Two significant events happened to us as 2021 became 2022:

  1. A business consultant we hired, who became a good friend, repeatedly recommended that Jack and I focus full-time efforts on energy. In his words, which was our area of “domain expertise”.
  2. An energy friend introduced us to energy studies/papers that provided details and predictions about Ontario’s “electric neural grid”. Jack read these reports with IT/tech/software implications front and centre in his mind while I read them with regulated and unregulated energy-business implications front and centre in my mind. We shared similar thoughts about cybersecurity.

Those two significant events caused us to be genuinely concerned about Ontario’s energy/electricity future and ignited our curiosity to learn more. Having not been active in the Ontario energy details since the early days of Ontario’s efforts to deregulate [aspects of] electricity in the early 2000’s, we recognized our concerns about Ontario’s energy situation might be overblown.

In reaction to our concerns, throughout 2022, I reached out to former energy colleagues to exchange thoughts during private conversations. It was wonderful to renew acquaintances with former colleagues, competitors, and people I know of but did not know well. Conversations, about a dozen of them in 2022, confirmed that many seasoned Ontario energy leaders were concerned about Ontario’s energy situation. Some of their concerns were shared and some illustrated polarized thinking about energy policies, energy industry operations, and the implications of energy choices on the environment.

In 2023, I freed up time to reach out to more Ontario energy leaders…about 150 leaders of small to mid-size energy businesses operating in Ontario. I reached out to people working with many types of energy and many types of businesses. About half of the 150 leaders responded to my reach out and we held online meetings. Again, I committed to keep the individual’s and their company’s names confidential.

These discussions confirmed that a large majority of the Ontario energy leaders I spoke with had strong concerns about Ontario’s energy situation. As examples, concerns included:

  • disconnects between environmental policies and energy policies,
  • disconnects between federal, provincial, and municipal policies,
  • inability to receive timely approval of energy projects,
  • potential inability of electric LDCs to accommodate distributed energy resources, and
  • potential shortage of electricity generation in the near future.

While the list of concerns was broad and deep, in mid-2023, I saw a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel when the conversations aimed at solutions. The word “collaboration” came to mind. When conversations contained that word, most of the energy leaders I spoke with embraced the concept of collaboration with enthusiasm. It became clear that organizing collaborative energy efforts involving leaders of Ontario’s small to mid-size energy businesses could bring improvements to Ontario’s energy sector…and, yes, that would benefit the people and companies that collaborate.

And it would benefit Ontario’s citizens and our province.

By mid-summer 2023, it was clear that a collaborative Ontario energy organization would be supported by a group of at least 20 founding members. On August 1, 2023, the Ontario Energy Collaborative Association (OECA) was incorporated. Shortly after, over 30 Ontario energy leaders had expressed an interest in joining OECA. Then we drafted governance, by-laws and charter, and set up banking. I talked with each potential member to ensure all members were comfortable sharing their information with other members.

In late November, OECA held its first members meeting…an informal opportunity for members to share introductions. We reviewed OECA’s website and the first version of our [private] Members Hub, for sharing information and messaging. The Members Hub contained 28 energy types, aligning with  diversity of our members and the topics discussed as we initiated discussions of collaboration.

Throughout December 2023, OECA’s steering committee drafted plans and budgets in preparation for our official launch meeting. That meeting was held on January 16th, 2024. OECA’s members voted unanimously in favour of launching our organization.

The activities that led to the creation of OECA, a not-for-profit organization, solidified OECA’s purpose and mission:

Purpose: OECA’s purpose is to facilitate energy leaders’ collaboration to benefit small and mid-size energy businesses in Ontario.

Fulfilling OECA’s Purpose: OECA provides a platform for sharing and discussing energy leaders’ viewpoints and information that supports those viewpoints. OECA members’ collaboration will promote sustainable energy businesses that provide energy commodities, products, services, and technological innovations. As OECA fulfills its purpose, OECA members will deliver value to Ontario commercial and industrial businesses and to Ontario citizens.

Mission: We aim to unite industry leaders, innovators, and visionaries to educate each other and Ontario citizens. Together, we will champion dependable, affordable, and sustainable energy practices across our province.

OECA’s mission is ambitious and inspiring: uniting industry leaders, innovators, and visionaries to educate each other and deliver value to the broader Ontario community.

OECA stands with optimism in a time marked by uncertainty and challenges. It represents a collective effort to harness the expertise and experiences of Ontario energy leaders, channelling these into meaningful actions and strategies that promise a brighter, more sustainable energy future for Ontario.

Rick Baker

Together our conversations can expand solutions and value

We look forward to helping you bring your ideas and solutions to life.
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