Research shows that project-level Environmental Assessment (EA) in Ontario is failing to achieve the goals that it was designed to meet, including protection and management of the environment. The practice of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is emerging internationally and an increasing number of countries and organizations are carrying out SEA either formally or informally. Although there is a considerable amount of debate in terms of standardized SEA methodology, SEA is seen as a proactive tool for incorporating sustainability objectives within Policies, Plans and Programmes (PPPs) and addressing cumulative and long-term effects of of multiple projects and policy decisions.
The energy sector is globally a large impact generator in terms of resource exploration, production, consumption and waste disposal. Energy development and policy in Ontario have great implications for sustainable development. Project-level EA is the process followed for developing energy infrastructure. However, decisions regarding energy supply are strategic in nature and cannot be adequately addressed through project-level EA. Therefore, SEA is an important tool used to deal with such decisions in the early stages of the assessment process and can help decision makers make informed choices regarding the long-term sustainability of strategic energy initiatives. This study focuses on identifying best practices criteria for carrying out SEA and investigating the extent to which the Ontario Long-Term Energy Plan conforms to SEA best practices.