Ensuring clean, reliable, secure, safe and reasonably-priced electricity in the future means making the right choices today. The latest provincial Long-Term Energy Plan comes up short on a number of counts.
The government had announced previously that two new nuclear units at Darlington would not be needed at this time “because the demand for electricity has not grown as expected due to changes in the economy and gains in conservation and energy efficiency.” The government has chosen instead to continue with more unchartered conservation programs and the planned expansion of more expensive wind, solar and natural gas generation. Regional energy planning in 21 different areas across the province will add another layer of cost, complexity and uncertainty.
Ontario’s current temporary electricity generation surplus is creating the false comfort that conservation and so-called demand management will address increased demand for electricity. Ontarians should remember that it was only eight years ago that our province faced significant power shortages.
The closure of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station in 2020 will remove 3,000 megawatts of reliable greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free electricity from Ontario’s supply. Recovery in the manufacturing sector, the increasing electrification of Ontario’s transportation system and a projected population increase of 3.9 million people by 2036 will cause electricity demand to rise again.
Ontario’s increasing reliance on natural gas generation presents other risks. The province’s Environment Commissioner believes that this fuel shift could compromise Ontario’s ability to meet its GHG targets. More of Ontario’s natural gas supply will come from environmentally-questionable shale gas, which will exacerbate this challenge. Recent price increases for natural gas underscore this fuel’s historical price volatility.
In addition, the Plan is silent on the potential conversion of the Nanticoke and Lambton coal stations to biomass and/or natural gas. The conversions of the Atikokan and Thunder Bay stations to biomass remain in the LTEP. The most positive element of the revised Plan is the commitment to refurbish ten existing nuclear units beginning with Darlington Unit 2 and Bruce Unit 4 in 2016.
Ontario still has the opportunity to refocus and apply some of the painful lessons learned during the last decade to an improved plan for economic and environmental performance.