IESO says phasing out Ontario’s gas generation by 2030 would lead to blackouts

Phasing out natural gas generation by 2030 would result in rolling blackouts and higher electricity bills, the Ontario electric system operator said in a report released Thursday that concludes that the move is not possible on that schedule.

The Independent Operator of the Electric System examined the idea after 31 city councils in the province asked for it to become a reality at the end of the decade.

IESO concluded that it would be too costly for a relatively small return on emission reductions, it would not be possible to build the necessary infrastructure in that time, and it would leave supply too unreliable.

Phasing out gas generation by 2030 would cost more than $ 27 billion to install new supply and transmission lines, increase annual system costs by $ 5.7 billion a year, and result in an additional $ 100 on an electricity bill. average monthly.

“A gas phase-out strategy by 2030 provides a very low return on investment and suggests that it would be more cost-effective to direct spending towards broader carbon reduction strategies that have much greater impacts,” the report concludes.

Ontario’s electricity system is already 94 percent emission-free, the IESO said, thanks to the phase-out of coal seven years ago, and accounts for a small percentage of the province’s total emissions.

But the IESO has projected that emissions from the power sector will rise from around four megatons today to more than 12 by 2030, largely due to nuclear renovations and retirements, resulting in an increased need for gas.

Energy Minister Todd Smith said he has asked IESO to evaluate a moratorium on the new generation of natural gas and develop an “achievable” path to phase it out because doing so by 2030 is not feasible.

“The significant impacts on affordability and reliability are unacceptable to our government, as they would not only affect current consumers, but would hamper other progressive actions to reduce emissions, such as decarbonization and electrification,” Smith said in a statement. .

Keith Brooks, director of programs for Environmental Defense, said it is “truly disheartening” to see the progress made in Ontario in reducing emissions by phasing out energy from coal unravels due to increasing dependence on gas.

“If Ontario is currently behind in building the renewable energy and storage needed to replace gas, as the IESO report suggests, it is because the current government canceled hundreds of wind and solar projects, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. in fines, “Brooks said. in a sentence.

Phasing out gas generation by 2030 would lead to blackouts and higher bills: #IESO. #ONPoli #ClimateCrisis #ClimateEmergency

“Ontario needs to phase out the gas as soon as possible, and the case for doing so must be evaluated against the full costs associated with remaining dependent on an increasingly polluting network.”

Gas also plays a key role in system reliability, the IESO said, as it produces large amounts of energy to meet high demand and provides balance when wind and solar generation is variable.

Electricity demand in the province can vary by up to 10,000 megawatts during the day, and gas generation can respond quickly to those changes, according to the report. Without gas generation, those fluctuations in demand could cause rolling blackouts, said David Devereaux, senior manager of plan and resource evaluations.

“If we are facing an extended period of high demand, so think about the heat waves last summer, there would not be enough time to recharge the batteries before each day,” he said.

“Now, in our reports, you will see terms like blackout, but don’t imagine a sudden blackout event like 2003. The scenarios we see are actually slower.”

The report also says that there is not enough capital, equipment and personnel to build the replacement infrastructure needed by 2030, and it would mean relying on newer forms of supply, such as storage and small modular reactors, that would not be available at that time in Ontario to the necessary scale.

“It’s very much a case of a plan that works on paper,” Devereaux said of IESO’s model to replace gas generation.

The model relied heavily on storage, which captures excess energy and re-injects it into the system when supply is low, but more than 6,000 megawatts would be needed, he said.

“This would probably be the largest storage fleet in the world,” Devereaux said.

“Now, we are very interested in storage and we are absolutely convinced that it has an important role to play in our system. But we feel we have a lot to learn before we can implement it on this scale.”

When Ontario phased out coal, it took 12 years and relied on gas generation as a replacement capacity. But gas is less easily replaced, the IESO said. Phasing out coal also added billions in additional costs to taxpayers and raised hydropower bills.

The IESO said there are potential ways to phase out natural gas generation over a longer period of time, but it is not feasible to do so by 2030.

This Canadian Press report was first published on October 7, 2021.

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