Home Environment Why Ontario needs to stop burning polluting gas for electricity

Why Ontario needs to stop burning polluting gas for electricity

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But what you probably haven’t heard is that our grid is getting dirtier again, with fossil fuels increasing in our electricity supply from burning natural gas. That means carbon emissions from electricity in Ontario will be rising back up again after years of decline.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that you support the phase-out of polluting gas powered electricity by 2030

Red button that says "take action"

Natural gas makes up about six per cent of electricity generation in Ontario today, but emits most of the carbon emissions from that sector. The rest of our power comes from a mix of nuclear power, renewables like hydro, wind and solar power, and biofuel.

 

Ontario Energy Output by Fuel Type: 2020 

2020 Ontario Energy Output by Fuel Type Source: IESO http://www.ieso.ca/Power-Data/Supply-Overview/Transmission-Connected-Generation

So why is Ontario planning to ramp up the lone fossil fuel in the mix, when so many other governments are racing to do the opposite to cut carbon emissions? It’s mostly due to a combination of poor planning coupled with an ideological opposition to renewable energy.

The reason given is that gas is needed to fill an upcoming drop in nuclear capacity. The Pickering nuclear plant is scheduled to retire in 2024 (or later, depending on how long past its retirement date Ontario wants to push the aging plant!), and other nuclear reactors are also scheduled for refurbishment in the 2020s.

Ontario’s electricity system operators have been planning for this drop in nuclear capacity for a long time. But their plans to fill some of this gap with renewables, energy conservation, and other programs were derailed in 2018. That was the year Ontario abruptly cancelled more than 750 renewable energy contracts, its cap-and-trade system, and many electricity conservation and efficiency programs. The IESO, Ontario’s electricity system operator, now forecasts a rise in electricity emissions from a current 4 mega tonnes to about 12 mega tonnes by 2030, and about 16 by 2040. This means tripling our carbon emissions from electricity by 2030, the year Ontario has promised to cut emissions by 30 percent.

 

Ontario Electricity Sector Greenhouse Gas  Emissions Historical and Forecast

Ontario electricity GHG outlook

Source: IESO Annual Planning Outlook (updated Feb 2021)

The plan to ramp up gas is a short-sighted and expensive mistake. Why go for gas when renewables like wind and solar, and the battery storage technology that makes them reliable, are now the cheapest source of new electricity generation in Canada? In Alberta, renewable energy companies recently signed contracts to feed green power to the grid that will be cheaper than natural gas plants. There is no longer any excuse to fall back on old dinosaurs like gas. But Ontario’s government still blocks new renewables from entering the grid, breaking the rules to dismantle wind farms, and releasing policy statements like this one:

We are proposing to repeal three sets of legislative provisions in the Electricity Act…that promote and prioritize renewable energy generation projects. Ontario has built a clean energy supply. Prioritizing renewable generation is no longer appropriate. Going forward, Ontario will ensure value for ratepayers by allowing all resources to compete to meet system needs.

Who suffers most from scrapping renewables and ramping up gas? 

Burning more natural gas for electricity is unfair for many reasons. It increases carbon emissions and makes climate change worse, and the impacts of climate change are not distributed equally. The people who suffer most from heat waves, floods, and wildfires are usually the people who can least afford to lose their homes and upend their lives, while people with more money simply crank up their air conditioning or rebuild their insured homes.

And the climate change impacts of using natural gas are severely under reported. Fracked natural gas has boomed in recent years. But so have methane emissions (which natural gas is mostly made of) – an extremely potent greenhouse gas which leaks unburned at every stage of natural gas production, from fracking to combustion. In fact, 2020 brought the largest single increase in methane in the atmosphere since we started measuring this in the 1980s. A recent study found that methane emissions in Canada are at least 1.5 times more than reported.

Gas plants are also big industrial facilities that create air pollution for surrounding communities. Remember the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville that were abruptly axed before the 2011 election, causing a massive scandal? While the cost of their cancellation dominated the news, these plants were quietly moved to new locations in Sarnia and Napanee. Why? Because the residents of Oakville and Mississauga didn’t want pollution-belching gas plants in their backyard, understandably.

gas plant
The Aamjiwnaang First Nation is exposed to high levels of pollution from Sarnia’s Chemical Valley. A polluting gas-fired electricity plant was moved to this area by the Ontario government in 2012.

But the practice of moving polluting industrial plants out of higher-income, whiter neighbourhoods and into lower income BIPOC communities has long caused disproportionate health impacts to these communities. Aamjiwnaang First Nation has fought hard against environmental racism in Sarnia’s toxic Chemical Valley, where oil refineries and other big industrial plants have already caused health damages from spills and air pollution. Many of the most toxic plants are located right next to important gathering spaces in Aamjiwnaang First Nation – including daycares and parks. Moving an unpopular gas plant from Mississauga to Sarnia’s Chemical Valley just makes this situation worse, and shifts the harmful impacts to Indigenous communities.

There are many good reasons to ditch natural gas. Climate change, air pollution, and environmental racism are just a few. We need to take action to stop Ontario from moving in the opposite direction and burning significantly more natural gas in the coming years.

Take Action: Tell Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that you support the phase-out of polluting gas powered electricity by 2030

 

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You’ve probably heard of Ontario’s clean, low-carbon grid. The decision to ditch the coal was the largest single action of its time to cut carbon emissions in North America. It also improved the air quality and made hazy days a thing of the past.

But what you probably haven’t heard is that our grid is getting dirty again, with burning natural gas adding fossil fuels to our electricity supply. This means that carbon emissions from electricity in Ontario will rise again after years of decline.

Take action: Tell Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that you support the phasing out of polluting gas-fired electricity by 2030.

red button that says "Take action"

Natural gas accounts for about six percent of electricity generation in Ontario today, but generates most of the carbon emissions from that region. The rest of our power comes from a mix of renewable energy such as nuclear power, hydroelectricity, wind and solar power and biofuels.

Ontario Energy Production by Fuel Type: 2020

2020 Ontario Energy Production by Fuel Type Source: IESO http://www.ieso.ca/Power-Data/Supply-Overview/Transmission-Connected-Generation

So why is Ontario planning to increase fossil fuels alone in the mix, while many other governments are rushing to do the opposite of cutting carbon emissions? This is mostly due to a combination of poor planning coupled with ideological opposition to renewable energy.

The reason given is that gas is needed to compensate for the ensuing drop in nuclear potential. The Pickering nuclear plant is due to be retired in 2024 (or later, depending on how long before Ontario wants to outlive the old plant!), and other nuclear reactors are also due for renewal in the 2020s. are determined for.

Ontario’s power system operators have long been planning this decline in nuclear capacity. But his plans to fill the gap with renewable energy, energy conservation and other programs were derailed in 2018. This was the year that Ontario abruptly canceled more than 750 renewable energy contracts, its cap-and-trade system, and many lightning protections. competency program. IESO, Ontario’s power system operator, now forecasts an increase in electric emissions from the current 4 megatonnes to about 12 megatonnes by 2030 and about 16 by 2040. This means tripling our carbon emissions from electricity by 2030, the year in which Ontario has pledged to cut emissions by 30 percent.

Ontario Electricity Sector Greenhouse Gas Emissions Historical and Forecast

Ontario Lightning GHG Outlook

Source: IESO Annual Plan Outlook (updated February 2021)

Planning to increase gas is a short-sighted and costly mistake. Why go for gas when renewable energies like wind and solar, and the battery storage technology that makes them reliable, are now Cheapest source of new electricity generation in Canada? In Alberta, renewable energy companies recently signed contracts to feed Green energy to the grid that will be cheaper than natural gas plants. There is no longer an excuse to fall back on an old dinosaur like Gasp. But Ontario’s government still blocks new renewable energy from entering the grid, breaking the rules for wind farms, and issue policy statements like this one:

We are proposing to repeal three sets of legislative provisions in the Electricity Act… that promote and prioritize renewable energy generation projects. Ontario has built up a clean energy supply. It is no longer appropriate to prioritize renewable generation. Going forward, Ontario will ensure value for ratepayers by allowing all resources to compete to meet system needs.

Who is suffering the most from phasing out renewable energy and accelerating gas?

Burning more natural gas for electricity is inappropriate for a number of reasons. This increases carbon emissions and makes climate change worse, and the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed. The people who suffer the most from heat waves, floods and wildfires are usually the ones who can least afford to lose their homes and sustain their lives, while those with the most money. Simply crank up your air conditioning or rebuild your insured homes.

And the effects of climate change from the use of natural gas are severely underreported. There has been a boom in cracked natural gas in recent years. But there are emissions of methane (of which natural gas is mostly made up) – an extremely potent greenhouse gas that leaks out without burning at every stage of natural gas production from fracking to combustion. In fact, 2020 brought Largest single increase in methane in the atmosphere since we started measuring it in the 1980s. A recent study found that methane emissions in Canada are At least 1.5 times more than reported.

Gas plants are also large industrial facilities that cause air pollution to the surrounding communities. Remember the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville that were abruptly removed before the 2011 election, leading to a massive scandal? While the cost of their cancellation dominated the news, these plants were quietly moved to new locations in Sarnia and Napani. Why? Because residents of Oakville and Mississauga didn’t want pollution-free gas plants in their backyards.

gas plant
The Aamjeevanang First Nation is exposed to high levels of pollution from the Chemical Valley of Sarania. A polluting gas-fired power plant was relocated to the area by the Ontario government in 2012.

But the practice of moving polluting industrial plants out of high-income, white neighborhoods and low-income BIPOC communities has been around for a long time. disproportionate health effects to these communities. Aamjeevanang First Nation Have fought hard against environmental racism in Sarnia’s toxic Chemical Valley, where oil refineries and other large industrial plants have already caused it health damage from spills and air pollution. Many of the most toxic plants are located right next to important gathering places in the Common Jeevang First Nation – including daycares and parks. Relocating an unpopular gas plant from Mississauga to Sarnia’s Chemical Valley makes the situation worse, and transfers the harmful effects to indigenous communities.

There are many good reasons to give up on natural gas. Climate change, air pollution and environmental racism are just a few. We need to take action to stop Ontario from going in the opposite direction and burning too much natural gas in the coming years.

Take action: Tell Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that you support the phasing out of polluting gas-fired electricity by 2030.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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