The Ontario government will not reconsider plans to close the Pickering nuclear power station and instead will make up for the resulting electricity shortfall with power generated from natural gas in a move that will substantially increase the province’s greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. next years.
In a report published this week, a nuclear defense group urged Ontario to renovate the aging facility east of Toronto, which will be closed in phases in 2024 and 2025. The closure of Pickering, which provides 14 percent of the province’s annual power supply, comes at the same time as the other two from Ontario. nuclear power plants are being renovated and operating at reduced capacity.
Canadians for Nuclear Energy, which is largely funded by energy worker unions, argued the closure of the 50-year-old facility it will lead to job losses, increases in emissions, increased reliance on imported natural gas, and an electricity deficit.
But Palmer Lockridge, a spokesman for the province’s energy minister, said further extension of Pickering’s life is not on the table.
“As previously announced in 2020, our government supports Ontario Power Generation’s plan to safely extend the life of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station through the end of 2025,” Lockridge said in an email response to questions.
“Moving forward, we are ensuring a reliable, affordable and clean electricity system for decades to come. That is why we put in place a plan that ensures we are prepared for emerging energy needs following Pickering’s closure and as a result of our government’s success in growing and electrifying the province’s economy.”
Prime Minister Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has invested heavily in electrification, pouring billions into making electric vehicles and batteries and industries such as steel to refit plants to run on electricity instead of coal.
Natural gas now provides about seven percent of the province’s power, a share of the pie that will increase significantly as nuclear power declines. Emissions from Ontario’s power grid, currently one of the cleanest in the world with 94% zero-emission power generation, are projected to rise 375% as the province increasingly turns to electricity generation. natural gas. Those increases will effectively undo a third of the emissions reductions the province has so hard achieved by phasing out coal-fired power generation.
The Independent Electric System Operator (IESO), which manages the Ontario grid, studied whether the province could phase out natural gas electricity generation by 2030 and concluded that it would “result in blackouts and make electrification difficult” and increase average residential electricity costs by $100 per month.
The Ontario Clean Air Alliance, however, draft documents obtained from the electricity operator that showed that it had studied, but not made public, other scenarios that involved phasing out natural gas without power shortages, price increases, or increases in emissions.
The Ontario government will not reconsider plans to close the Pickering nuclear station and instead will make up for the resulting electricity shortfall with power generated from natural gas in a move that will increase the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.
One model suggested that increasing carbon taxes and clean energy imports from other provinces could keep blackouts, costs and emissions at bay, while another involved increasing energy efficiency, wind power generation and storage.
“By banning gas-fired electricity exports to the US, importing as much hydropower from Quebec as we can with existing transmission lines, and investing in energy efficiency, wind, solar, and storage, do all of those things and you can phase out gas power. and lower our bills,” said Jack Gibbons, president of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.
The IESO has argued in response that the study of those scenarios was not complete and did not include many of the challenges associated with phasing out natural gas plants.
Ontario Energy Minister Todd Smith has asked the IESO to develop “a workable path to zero emissions in the electricity sector and consider a moratorium on newly built natural gas generating stations,” his spokesman said. That report is expected in November.