Ontario Phasing Out Coal

January 21, 2013

A few reactions. Ontario is blessed with a large hydro capacity,which is a perfect match for variable resources coming on line.  A big reason for the change is the current low prices for gas generation, and there are large question marks as to what the real greenhouse contributions of the natureal gas infrastructure are.

Still, phasing out coal, which accounted for 25 percent of generation, is a real achievement, and was one of the goals of energy legislation that set up feed-in-tariffs to encourage renewable development in the province. Modeled after Germany, this is, to my knowledge, this is the most aggressive and successful program in North America.

Scientific American:

By the end of the year, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to shut down almost its entire coal fleet.

Yesterday, the province announced that its last two large coal units will close before 2014, making more than 99 percent of the province’s electricity generated from non-coal sources. It is a major shift for Ontario, which fired 25 percent of its grid from coal a decade ago.

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To prepare for the coal phaseout, McGuinty introduced an aggressive energy law in 2009 establishing energy efficiency programs and a feed-in tariff providing generous financial benefits to renewable developers. Those efficiency programs have helped make Ontario one of the few jurisdictions in the world where energy demand is declining, rather than increasing, Weis said.

“This shows it is possible to do this in a jurisdiction with big electricity consumption,” he said.

The 2009 law has not been without controversy — and was recently challenged before the World Trade Organization — but it has boosted the ability of renewable power to step in for coal, according to Weis.

Wind power has grown from 400 MW of provincial power six years ago to more than 2,000 MW now. By 2030, it is projected to provide roughly 10 percent of the province’s electricity supply, despite having been a non-player in 2003.

Additionally, new natural gas plants are supplying much of the power formerly provided from coal generation, Weis said.

According to the Pembina Institute, the greenhouse gas emissions from Ontario’s electricity sector have fallen from 40 million tons to 10 million tons over the past decade because of the coal plant closings.

Vision of Earth:

Ontario introduced the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program on November 22, 2006 with the intent of stimulating growth in the development of renewable energy in the province. The program exceeded expectations with 1400MW of contracted projects since its inception.7

On May 14th, 2009 Ontario passed into law the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. The act is intended to help phase out the last coal generation in Ontario and boost the economy. The act is also intended to stimulate research into renewable technologies and create environmentally friendly industry and jobs.8 It is important to note that the Ontario FIT provided a small but notable additional incentive for Native groups to propose projects. It also included a requirement of certain percentages of renewable energy equipment had to be purchased from Ontario companies. The goal was to create a strong Ontario renewable energy industry.

When Ontario’s Feed-in tariff program was one year old, there was some journalistic coverage of how successful it had been. It seems to have been incredibly successful, with many projects waiting in the queue for transmission line space to be built. Tens of thousands of proposals are for rooftop solar, but this represents only a small portion of the proposed power production. It is expected that this aggressive policy is bringing many jobs to Ontario. People have been complaining, often comparing the electricity rates for green power to the rates they have paid in the past. As this reporter correctly points out: that is the wrong question to ask. The right question to ask is how they compare to the rates that Ontario is paying for its current power, and what it will be paying for power in the near future.

 

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6 Responses to “Ontario Phasing Out Coal”

  1. joffan7 Says:

    Ontario phased out coal essentially using nuclear power.

    The ability of these various reports to ignore this reality is jaw-droppingly remarkable.

    See Steve Aplin’s blog with its Ontario electricity power/CO2 tickers on the left sidebar, for example. http://canadianenergyissues.com/2013/01/09/pickering-license-renewal-to-dump-or-not-to-dump-nine-million-tons-of-carbon-into-our-air-every-single-year-for-five-more-years/

    • MorinMoss Says:

      I’ve been following the situation in Ontario off and on ever since all 3 major parties promised to shut the coal plants, the Liberals and NDP by 2007 and the Conservatives by 2014, IIRC.

      Nukes are a very important part of Ontario’s energy mix but they’ve had problems for several decades with manitenance, even spending huge fees for US consultants to run or fix some plants.

      Back in 2006, there was a plan to build more nukes but the sticker price was $50 billion+ and it would have been 10 years before the 1st reactor was producing electricity.

      From what I can tell, they made some big mistakes with the Green Energy program that heavily favors Samsung but I don’t think any of the problems are unfixable.

      That said, the Liberals are not likely to retain power unless the Conservatives screw up very, very badly and they are not anywhere as clueless or rabidly moronic a bunch as what’s infected the latter-day GOP.

      • joffan7 Says:

        Well, of course, it’s politics, and nothing is simple, and certainly no major infrastructure in history has been issue-free. I know that Bruce is back to full power now after it was semi-retired in the 90s.

        I don’t think it’s worth getting too hung up on lead time. We aren’t going to fix emissions completely in less than 30 years. Cost is important – my recollection is that the price offered was $25 billion? – but there must have something funky about that contract; no nukes cost near that much anywhere else.


  2. I am watching the political situation here in Ontario closely. The Liberals are very unpopular right now and I do not know what a Conservative -or perhaps NDP- government would do. The Green Energy programme appears to be unpopular because hydroelectricity rates are high and many rural residents are unhappy about the rise in rural wind farm construction. The Liberals are very unpopular in rural Ontario in no small part because of the energy programme (Liberals can and often do win in rural Ontario, so this loss of support is actually important). Also, I have encountered in my reading of local newspapers and my discussions with local people a lot of resentment about Samsung.

    I hope that whichever party is in power later this year (there will be an election this year because the Liberals are choosing a new party leader which, by custom, forces an election) will maintain the push towards an alternative energy future. However, it is very true that nuclear energy remains a major player here. Still, I am guardedly optimistic because Premier McGuinty has recognized (as have others) that Ontario needs to find encourage alternative energy development not only to help fight climate change but also because there is an economic incentive to do so. This stands in sharp contrast to the federal government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper who keeps talking as though economic growth must come at the expense of ecological health.


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