Liberals launch energy plan; close coal units, hike nuclear, wind, solar

Minister of Energy Brad Duguid released Ontario’s new long-term energy plan Nov. 22.

The wind industry, under its blanket group, CanWea, has saluted the plan by the provincial Liberal government.

 The highlights of the new plan include:

– closing all coal units by 2014, and fast-tracking the closure of two more coal units in 2011, three years ahead of schedule;

– creating 50,000 jobs in Ontario’s growing clean energy economy;

– increasing Ontario’s power supply from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and bio-energy to 13 per cent by 2018, up from three per cent today;

– building the largest expansion in hydroelectric power in almost 40 years, with projects to get more power from Niagara Falls and the Lower Mattagami River;

– securing clean and reliable nuclear power as a base for half of Ontario’s power supply;

– moving immediately with five priority transmission projects to bring more clean power online, to serve changing demand, and to ensure reliability;

– reducing costs for consumers and making power system more efficient through conservation, saving 7,100 megawatts of power.

The government hopes the plan sets the course for a clean energy revolution and will create new, good jobs in Ontario, and improve the air quality.

The 20-year energy plan, called Building Our Clean Energy Future, means the government is spending money to guarantee a power supply, “a balanced mix of clean power sources and shuts down all dirty smog-producing coal plants,” according to a government press release.

There is a cost.

To provide that energy, residential and small business electricity bills are forecast to increase by 3.5 per cent annually over the next 20 years. Industrial rates are forecast to increase by 2.7 per cent annually over the same time.

There has been a huge outcry over the increased costs to the plan, so the Liberal government is:

– taking 10 per cent off monthly electricity bills for families, farms and small businesses starting Jan. 1, under the proposed Ontario clean energy benefit;

– moving the time-of-use off-peak period for electricity to 7pm, which will provide an additional ten hours every week in the lowest cost period.

– helping seniors and low- and middle-income Ontarians through a proposed expansion to the energy and property tax credit, providing up to $900 back, and up to $1,025 for eligible seniors; and

– helping large industrials and manufacturers conserve energy, save on electricity costs and increase their competitiveness through the Industrial Conservation Initiative, starting in January 2011.

Duguid said, “There is a clean energy revolution happening in Ontario, creating thousands of new, good jobs and cleaning up the air we breathe. Our energy plan is an economic plan with Ontario at the forefront of clean energy, creating a new industry and new jobs. And, we’re helping Ontario families with the cost of turning on clean energy and turning off dirty coal.” 

The press release noted more than 20 businesses have announced they are creating new jobs in Ontario, setting up plants to manufacture parts for the solar and wind industry.

There are 8,400 megawatts of cleaner power that have been brought on line and more than 5,000 kilometres of transmission lines have been upgraded since 2003.

In 2003, 67 per cent of Ontario’s electricity was generated from emissions-free sources. By 2030, 92 per cent of the province’s electricity mix will be clean and emissions-free.

In 2003, Ontario had 19 dirty coal units and just ten wind turbines; today, the province has over 700 new wind turbines and by 2014 all coal units will be closed. 

The government press release stated shutting down all of Ontario’s dirty coal plants is the equivalent of taking seven million cars off the road – almost all of the cars in Ontario today.

The government press release also pointed out:

– demand will grow moderately (about 15 per cent) between 2010 and 2030.

– Ontario will be coal-free by 2014, and eliminating coal-fired generation from Ontario’s supply will account for the majority of the government’s greenhouse gas reduction target by 2014. Two units at the Thunder Bay coal plant will be converted to gas, and Atikokan will be converted to biomass. Two additional units at Nanticoke will be shut down in 2011.

– The government is committed to clean, reliable nuclear power remaining at approximately 50 per cent of the province’s electricity supply. To do so, the province will rebuild what it can, and replace what it can’t. Units at the Darlington and Bruce sites will need to be modernized and the province will need two new nuclear units at Darlington. There will be a cost in refurbishing to extend the life of the Pickering B station until 2020 and the government hopes that provides good value.

– Ontario will continue to grow its hydroelectric capacity with a target of 9,000 megawatts. That is expected to be achieved through new facilities and through significant spending to maximize the use of Ontario’s existing facilities. Ontario will undergo the largest hydroelectric expansion in almost 40 years through the Niagara Tunnel and Lower Mattagami projects. 

– Ontario’s target for clean, renewable energy from wind, solar and bioenergy is 10,700 megawatts by 2018 (excluding hydroelectric) – accommodated through transmission expansion and maximizing the use of the existing system. The Liberal government hopes to increase the clean energy economy through the continuation of clean energy programs like the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and microFIT.

– Natural gas generation for peak needs is expected to be of value where it can address local and system reliability issues.  Natural gas will support the increase in renewable sources over time and supplement the modernization of nuclear generators.

– Combined heat and power is an energy-efficient source of power and the OPA will develop a standard offer program for projects under 20 megawatts.

– The government will proceed with five priority transmission projects needed immediately for reliability, renewable energy growth, and changing demand. Future plans are to identify more projects as they are needed.

– In conservation, the government plans to continue to increase and broaden its targets to 7,100 megawatts and reduce overall demand by 28 terawatt-hours (TWh) by 2030.

– Over the next 20 years, estimated capital investments from both private and government (taxpayers’) sectors totalling $87-billion is hoped ensure a clean and reliable electricity system.