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Ontario’s Electricity Dilemma – Achieving Low Emissions at Reasonable Electricity Rates  

Author:  | Economics, Emissions, Grid, Ontario

Original Goals for Electricity System Transformation

  • Reduce CO₂ emissions from power plants:
    • Phase out coal plants and build new efficient CCGT gas plants.
    • Restart 4 nuclear units at Bruce A and 2 units at Pickering A.
    • Add wind, solar, bio-energy and small hydro generation.
    • Refurbish nuclear units as they reach end of design life.
  • Create new green energy sector jobs:
    • FIT program to accelerate deployment of renewables.
    • Create 50,000 jobs in new green sector.
  • Keep transformation costs within 1% per year in additional costs:
    • Install smart meters with Time-of‐Use (TOU) rates.
    • Encourage peak reduction and load flattening.
  • A careful engineering analysis and grid simulation would have shown that the policy goals could not have been economically accomplished because:
    • Backup generation is required for wind and solar. Consequently wind and solar are displacement energy sources.
    • The total value of displacement sources to the consumer is only the economic value of the displaced fuel. For hydroelectric and nuclear it’s 0.5 cents/kWh. For natural gas it’s 4 cents/kWh plus a carbon reduction benefit of 1 cent/kWh for each $30 per ton CO₂ of environmental costs.
    • The policy to eliminate coal in Ontario reduced the carbon reduction benefit of wind and solar by 2.5× because gas is cleaner than coal. …

Why Will Emissions Double as We Add Wind and Solar Plants?

  • Wind and Solar require flexible backup generation.
  • Nuclear is too inflexible to backup renewables without expensive engineering changes to the reactors.
  • Flexible electric storage is too expensive at the moment.
  • Consequently natural gas provides the backup for wind and solar in North America.
  • When you add wind and solar you are actually forced to reduce nuclear genera,on to make room for more natural gas genera,on to provide flexible backup.
  • Ontario currently produces electricity at less than 40 grams of CO₂ emissions/kWh.
  • Wind and solar with natural gas backup produces electricity at about 200 grams of CO₂ emissions/kWh. Therefore adding wind and solar to Ontario’s grid drives CO₂ emissions higher. From 2016 to 2032 as Ontario phases out nuclear capacity to make room for wind and solar, CO₂ emissions will double (2013 LTEP data).
  • In Ontario, with limited economic hydro and expensive storage, it is mathematically impossible to achieve low CO₂ emissions at reasonable electricity prices without nuclear generation.

Download original document: “Ontario’s Electricity Dilemma – Achieving Low Emissions at Reasonable Electricity Rates

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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