Ontario’s power system will rely on more wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, build more nuclear power plants and ask consumers to save more electricity to meet the province’s energy needs for the next two decades under a sweeping $60-billion plan unveiled yesterday by the Ontario Power Authority.
The plan would phase out Ontario’s greenhouse-gas-emitting coal-fired power plants by 2014.
“It’s a directional plan: it’s a road map,” Amir Shalaby, the power authority’s vice-president of planning, said.
Opposition critics and environmentalists, however, called the 20-year plan unrealistic and predicted it would result in hikes of up to 40% in Ontarians’ power bills.
They said the plan relied too heavily on expensive and often unreliable nuclear power to meet its goals.
“This is a plan for failure,” said Keith Stewart of the World Wild-life Fund. “This is a plan for the past, not the future.”
The 4,000-page document, which must still be approved by the provincial power regulator, would dramatically increase the amount of power generated by renewable energy sources, primarily wind, solar and hydroelectric plants. The plan calls for renewable energy to grow to 12% of the province’s power supply from the current 9%, the bulk of that coming from hydroelectric.
While the authority plans to more than quadruple the amount of power drawn from wind turbines, from 395 megawatts to more than 1,600 by 2027, it ruled out building large “wind farms” to generate more, saying: “These projects would not be cost effective.”
The province will also use conservation to reduce demand on the power grid, calling for 6,300 megawatts in reductions through programs such as encouraging energy-efficient buildings or vehicles. The plan projects that conservation will meet 11% of expected demand within the next seven years, up from 2% this year.
That would neatly account for the 6,434 megawatts of power now produced by Ontario’s coal-fuelled plants, which are to be shut down by 2014 in accordance with a promise by the provincial Liberal government.
While the plan phases out coal by the promised date, the power authority said it will also keep some coal plants operational for “insurance” purposes to cover any unanticipated gaps between the province’s capacity and peak demand for electricity. The provincial government last year delayed its plans to shut down the plants by five years in order to prevent blackouts.
Nuclear power is to provide up to 14,000 megawatts of additional power under the plan through a combination of refurbishing existing nuclear plants and building new facilities. The power authority said that it preferred to refurbish existing plants to building new ones, but left the door open to constructing more nuclear power stations if necessary.
The plan also called for increasing gas-generated power from 22% now to 28%.
The power authority estimated that Ontario’s electricity costs would increase by up to 20% by 2027, but Mr. Shalaby suggested that consumers could actually reduce their electricity costs by using less power. “The reduced consumption that we expect will compensate for and offset the higher average cost,” he said.
The province’s electricity system is expected to be a major issue during the run-up to the Oct. 10 election and the opposition Conservatives and New Democrats were quick to criticize the plan.
“This government is good at making plans,” said John Yakabuski, the Tory energy critic. “It’s just not very good at carrying them out. For this plan to succeed requires many, many things to fall into place.”
Mr. Yakabuski said the power authority’s estimates for savings through energy conservation and for power from renewable sources are overly optimistic, and predicted that the price of electricity would rise much higher than the plan expects. “The price has got to go up, but 15 to 20% sounds very, very optimistic to me.”
Peter Tabuns, the NDP energy critic, said the plan is at heart “a big nuclear power plan.”
“And nuclear power is just not cost-effective,” he said. “Nuclear plants cost more to build and take longer to come on line … they always low-ball the costs and in the end we get hit with much higher costs.”
Mr. Stewart, manager of the World Wildlife Fund’s climate-change campaign, said the plan could have done more to highlight energy conservation and renewable energy sources and questioned whether the controversial coal-fired generating stations will actually shut down as planned in 2014. “I think they’re going to get to 2014 and say: ‘Whoops! The only way to keep the lights on is to keep those coal plants running. Sorry.’ ”
ENERGY BY THE NUMBERS
Based on a 20-year forecast, but subject to updating and regulatory review every three years.
The 20-year Integrated Power System Plan includes generation projects, transmission enhancements and conservation efforts estimated to cost roughly $60-billion ($59.7 billion by 2025 in 2007 dollars): $10.2b–conservation $15.4b– renewable energy $26.5b–nuclear power $3.6b–natural gas $4b– transmission The cost to power users is expected to be in the order of 15% to 20% higher electrical bills.
Target of 6,300 MWin reduced demand by 2025 by encouraging electricity users to conserve more power. Plan to include payments or incentives to promote conservation and develop energy-efficient technologies, buildings and production processes.
Calls for additional 10,402 megawatts of power generated by renewable sources, primarily hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass generating systems, by 2010 and 15,700 megawatts by 2025. Hydro resources are to contribute more capacity than wind resources (10,771MW versus 4,685 MW).
Up to 14,000 megawatts more from nuclear plants, either refurbishing existing plants or building new ones.
Gas-fired generating plants to be used to replace coal-fired plants by 2014 “in the earliest practical timeframe” when conservation or renewable sources are not feasible or cost effective. Gas-fired generators expected to produce additional 15,000 megawatts by 2015.
Coal-fired plants to be phased out by the end of 2014, but some will be kept operational for “insurance purposes” in case of an unexpected shortfall in power supply or unusually high demand.
By Chris Wattie
30 August 2007
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