How clean is Ontario’s electricity?

Toronto and the rest of the province is avidly working towards embracing clean energy, but it has a long road ahead to catch up to other cities such as Reykjavik, Iceland, who leads the world in clean electricity through their use of geothermal and hydro energy.

Toronto produced 20,313,061 metric tonnes of CO2 last year. The city is involved in lowering greenhouse emissions, and the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA) will help towards this goal. According to a report published by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a partner of AECOM, cities worldwide produce 78 per cent of energy emissions. But, the easiest way to reduce carbon emissions is by reducing your personal energy consumption.

Since the province decided to draw away from electricity fuelled by coal, other forms of energy have increased in Toronto that are more green and sustainable — also known as clean energy.  Nuclear energy produces 53 per cent of Toronto’s electricity, followed by Hydro at 26 per cent. Wind power only produces 11 per cent of the city’s energy, and solar power and biomass yield less than one per cent. Currently, the total capacity of renewable electricity is 40 MW, which generates 23,816 MWh annually. The City of Toronto is working towards incorporating more renewable energy into the grid through solar photovoltaic, wind and bioenergy in various programs such as green roofs.

Though nuclear energy is not officially considered a renewable energy resource, nuclear fusion could be considered sustainable if it were harnessed and used safely. We use nuclear fission, a secondary process of nuclear that produces mass amounts of energy and synthesizes easily with other renewable energy sources. On the other hand, nuclear fusion is replete with issues because if it isn’t harnessed correctly, it could be catastrophic (as exemplified in Chernobyl). If there was a way to use nuclear fusion with no threat of harming people or the planet, it could become the primary renewable energy source because its energy potential is limitless.

Another kind of renewable energy is biomass, which is created by burning left-over scraps taken from forests and agricultural operations and capturing the carbon energy that is released as an energy source. Though burning has faced criticism as a clean energy source, it helps use left-over materials to produce fuels that can power vehicles.

Ontario doesn’t use coal because it is unsustainable and produces high levels of carbon emissions. Two of these coal plants were transferred into biomass fuel plants and have been quite successful at producing energy. Atikokan and Thunderbay Generating Stations have been converted to biomass plants because the process requires a similar fuel storage and handling system to coal, and it allowed people to keep their jobs supporting a more sustainable energy source.

Many people in Ontario have been complaining about their rising hydro costs, but what they need to realize is they are paying into the future. The Clean Energy Act is paving the way for Ontario to successfully meet climate change targets, and there is a cost to going green. But, there is still so much to do! Ontario should be providing strong incentive programs for people who are struggling to pay their hydro bills. Currently aid programs exist for low-income residents, but more substantial incentives and education could help Ontario residents hop on board the green road to clean energy.


Kaeleigh Phillips is Women's Post sustainability coordinator. She specializes in writing about issues relating to the environment, including renewable energy, cycling, and vegan recipes!

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