“I Believe in Climate Change,” Ontario Premiere doug ford told reporters ahead of the 2022 general election. “And we’re doing everything we can to stop it by building electric vehiclesInvesting in battery plants.
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Along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for the June election, he announced a spending package focused on electric vehicles, including Alliston, Brampton and Windsor.
However, upcoming shutdowns and renovations at Ontario nuclear power plants could reduce the environmental benefits of Ford’s plan.
The reduction in nuclear-generated electricity during 2020 will see more natural gas – a fossil fuel – used to make electricity that will power zero-emissions buses and cars.
“Ontario had already made great progress by getting rid of coal plants (in 2014),” Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defense, told Global News. “The idea of shutting down a nuclear reactor and building a fossil fuel plant is crazy… it doesn’t make sense.”
He suggested that the province should instead focus its spending on renewable alternatives that are “emissions free and cheap”.
A report by the Ontario Crown Corporation predicts that switching from nuclear to gas would increase the province’s electricity generation emissions by 177 percent by 2030.
Over the next decade, one of the province’s nuclear power stations will close its doors for good, while the others will undergo renovations and temporary shutdowns.
Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith told Global News that his priority is to ensure that Ontario has an electricity grid that is “stable, reliable, affordable and clean.”
Growing reliance on the gas — and putting pressure on its emissions — Smith said reliability was his top priority.
“We have to make sure it’s affordable and we have to make sure it’s reliable,” he said.
Under the current term of Ford’s re-elected PC, the Pickering Power Generation Station will be commissioned in 2024. The renovation would mean “long-term outages” at both the Darlington and Bruce nuclear power stations.
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The province is “moving forward with plans to build Canada’s first[small nuclear reactor or ‘SMR’]at the Darlington site, pending regulatory approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.”
According to Ontario Government website“SMRs are nuclear reactors that are significantly smaller and more flexible than conventional nuclear reactors.”
The Pickering Plant accounted for about 14 percent of Ontario’s electricity last year.
“We certainly need a lot of natural gas to meet the short-term short-term,” Zeb Tate, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto, told Global News.
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A quote from Smith, the Energy Minister, on Ontario Electricity Generation (OPG) website Describes nuclear power as “the backbone of Ontario’s clean electricity grid”.
Nuclear reactors are the joint largest source of electricity in Ontario, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the Crown Corporation responsible for the electric market.
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Of the total installed capacity, 26 percent comes from nuclear, while 26 percent comes from gas. The contribution of hydroelectric power is 23 per cent, while wind and solar make up 14 and seven per cent respectively.
IESO manages the electricity market in Ontario. It curates and extends the supply and negotiates contracts to generate electricity with third party companies. It does not have any power generator itself.
To handle a significant loss of nuclear-generated energy, Ontario plans to open gas taps and burn more fuel.
a Recent Study by IESO predicted “that without gas production, Ontario’s power system would see frequent and sustained blackouts in 2030.”
That forecast was described as its “most optimistic assumptions”.
The power system operator said Ontario is already making the most of hydro, while solar and wind power depend on the weather.
Natural gas production can provide the reliability and flexibility needed to support green initiatives and the ensuing growth in electricity demand, such as from electric vehicles and electric arc furnaces in steelmaking.
By approximately 2038, IESO forecasts reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions from electric vehicles, which will lead to reductions in power sector emissions.
The IESO report on natural gas says, “Increased power sector emissions do not necessarily mean an increase in economy-wide emissions.”
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Switch on the gas is a trick Jack Gibbons, from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, believes that would be disastrous for Ontario’s efforts to reach emissions and net-zero.
“It’s the absolute worst possible strategy, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution, not increase it,” he told Global News. “We should instead invest in low-cost alternatives: energy efficiency, renewable, buying low-cost Quebec water power.”
The Ontario Clean Air Alliance said the suggestion of a blackout with a phase-out of gas electricity is “fundamentally flawed and incorrect.”
Gibbons said the group would encourage the government to put gas-fired power stations on standby as a backup over the next 20 years, while focusing on spending on renewable energy sources.
The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) describes natural gas as a “relatively clean” fossil fuel – but a fossil fuel nonetheless.
More than 30 municipalities in Ontario have passed resolutions calling on the province to cease using natural gas power plants.
IESO predicts that it will be impossible to implement that request.
“For the average homeowner, the effect of removing gas would add $100 to the monthly electricity bill, which represents a 60 percent increase,” said Crown Corporation’s report on the suggestion.
As nuclear power falters in the 2020s, Ontario will move in the opposite direction and rely more on gas. The switch comes on when the demand for electricity starts increasing.
IESO expects the agriculture sector to grow by an average of about 1.7 percent every year as a result of rising demand, economic recovery after COVID-19, population growth and “increased focus on electrification”.
Meeting that demand will require increased electricity generation, IESO says, “primarily (using gas generators).”
Emissions from reliance on gas power will increase from the recent average of 4.4 megatonnes to 12.2 megatonnes in 2030.
While the IESO states that this figure is a third of Ontario’s 2005 emissions, it represents a 177 percent increase compared to the grid’s recent carbon footprint.
How this affects the PC Party’s electrification-focused promise of a green economy remains to be seen.
An Ontario ministry spokesman said, “While some increase in the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions is projected over the coming decade, Ontario’s grid will remain one of the cleanest in the world, and the benefits of electrifying transportation and other energy end-uses will remain substantial.” ” Environment, Conservation and Parks said when asked for comment.
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An example within IESO’s report on phasing out gas-generated electricity shows how much of the dirtiest natural gas in the grid makes electric cars.
In Ontario, an electric car charged using the 2021 grid structure produces just three percent of the emissions of a gas-powered car, the report found.
However, on the hottest summer day – when gas is “most commonly used” to accommodate the increasing demand for electricity created by air conditioning – an electric car will use 40 percent of the gas car’s emissions.
That example still assumes that Ontario’s nuclear power stations are operating at full-tilt.
IESO is working on a study looking at how to green its emissions in the long run. Crown Corporation set to report back to him in November on a potential gas moratorium as well as plans to achieve zero emissions in the power sector.
“I think from the operator’s point of view, you have to remember, their main concern is to keep the lights on,” Associate Professor Tate said.
“Natural gas – they know they can call someone up and say, ‘Turn up your power now’ and it’ll be done in minutes. It’s a very tempting thing to have an operator who is responsible for making sure that There’s electricity there.”
“I think, they would favor credibility over greenhouse gas emissions.”
— With files from the Canadian Press
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