‘It’s shameful’: Critics slam Doug Ford’s plan to replace nuclear power with natural gas

Ontario’s plan to replace power generation when an aging nuclear plant closes in 2025 has critics saying the province hasn’t gotten the memo on the growing dangers of climate change.

Of the six new contracts announced by the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) on Tuesday, four are for power generation by burning natural gas, while the other two — for wind power and gas storage. energy — account for less than 10% of the 764 megawatts under contract.

Energy Minister Todd Smith has defended the supply, made following last year’s IESO warning that phasing out gas-fired power plants before 2030 would lead to power outages rotating electricity and higher electricity bills because more feeder and transmission lines could not be built in time.

« This is a competitive procurement process that allowed us to re-contract existing generators with a 30% savings to ratepayers, » Smith told reporters after the Legislature’s daily question period.

“We have to make sure that our system is reliable. We can’t experience brownouts that would discourage investment in our province, so we need to make sure that all the power we buy will be there when we need it.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner says government is missing the point, IESO decision stemming from Premier Doug Ford’s 2018 decision to scrap 758 renewable energy projects at a cost of $230 million in compensation.

« It’s now or never to deal with the climate crisis, and the government has failed to respond at this time… The International Energy Agency has said that if we have any chance of meeting our climate obligations, we cannot increase the use of fossil fuels, » Schreiner added.

“There is still time to increase renewable energy and storage.”

The new contracts are coming to the grid in 2024 and 2026 to fill the void left by the decommissioning of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. It will then be placed in a state of « safe storage » by removing the uranium fuel and water, and decommissioned from 2028.

Keith Brooks of the lobby group Environmental Defense agreed that Ontario would be « much better off » if it weren’t for green power project cancellations in 2018.

He also warned that an upcoming IESO long-term supply plan for the next two decades could also weigh heavily on natural gas, potentially putting the province offside with a planned federal “decarbonized” emissions standard. or net zero on electricity production by 2035.

« It’s shameful, » Brooks said. “All of the work we’ve done in this province to phase out coal to reduce emissions in the electricity sector is being undone by a new gas commitment.

Jack Gibbons of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance said the province is « absolutely going in the wrong direction. »

Smith said he’s asked the IESO to expedite a report on a possible moratorium on building new natural gas-fired power plants as the province works toward a net-zero emissions power grid.

Poor planning by Ford’s Progressive Conservatives has ‘really put us in a tough spot,’ Interim NDP Leader Peter Tabuns said, referring to the 2018 decision to cancel renewable energy projects in development and not subcontract more electricity to neighboring Quebec.

“If they had done the planning a few years ago, there would be no doubt that we could just say no (to natural gas). They cut conservation programs, they canceled green energy programs,” he added.

“You’ve seen the news from Texas, the floods happening. You saw the storm that hit in May, the destruction of hundreds of hydro poles in Ottawa. We have a crisis and this government is not taking it seriously.

The 758 green energy contracts signed by the previous Liberal government were canceled by the Progressive Conservatives four years ago amid voter outrage over high electricity prices. They were a major election issue in 2018 after doubling in the previous 10 years as the Liberals encouraged green power generation by paying more than traditional market rates for it.

Given that the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station will begin to be decommissioned in 2024 and close in 2025, and other nuclear generating stations will be refurbished during this decade, the province needs replacement electricity at some point. where electricity demand is expected to rise due to rising sales of electric vehicles, new transit lines and new industries such as an electric vehicle battery plant being built in Windsor to serve the parent company of Chrysler, Stellantis.

The Pickering plant opened in 1971 and produces approximately 14% of Ontario’s electricity.


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