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Is Ontario moving towards clean energy?

What is Ontario’s position on clean energy?

The province has been one of North America’s leaders in clean energy, but lately has been demonstrating that clean energy may be less important than saving a few quick dollars. It appears the province may be advocating for clean energy and climate change initiatives at the same time they are cutting budgets involving green incentives.

Ontario is now launching its third Long-term Energy Plan (LTEP), which will be released in 2017. The various regulations and laws in the Clean Energy Act (originally launched in 2009) is daunting to sort through. Alternatively, the Planning Ontario’s Energy Future lays out the current state of energy in the province today pretty clearly.

The Clean Energy act was closely followed by the LTEP in 2010, and was updated in 2013. The newest version of the LTEP is set to reassess clean energy goals set in The Climate Change Action Plan. Ontario promotes clean energy and when considering electricity, it is growing green. In the report, Ontario specifies that it has approximately 18,000 MW of wind, solar, bioenergy and hydroelectricity on-line or under contract. Ontario electricity production in 2015 consists of 58 per cent nuclear energy, 10 per cent natural gas, 23 per cent water, nine per cent solar/wind/bioenergy and no coal production as of 2014. Clean energy has increased in the last 10 years, but more work is left to be done.

Comparatively, clean fuel is moving much more slowly. Ontario residents use fuel for heating, transportation, electricity generation, and industrial production. It also provides energy for the production of plastics, fertilizers, and chemicals. Currently, natural gas is the leading fuel type at 36 per cent. Wood and biomass is at three per cent, which has only grown two per cent since 2006. Coal is also still used as one per cent of fuel, despite the fact that one of the most unsustainable energy sources and has since been abandoned as a source of electricity in the province.

This is significant because three quarters of homes are heated by natural gas, which is substantially cheaper than electricity. Though electricity is moving in a green direction, fuel distribution still remains as a central energy source. Ontario has set conservation targets for natural gas, but has yet to push Ontarians to move way from relying on this fossil fuel in their homes. It comes down to a question of building the infrastructure to provide renewable energy to homes effectively and efficiently. The infrastructure has been designed to carry natural gas into homes, and it is an expensive but necessary undertaking to move away from fossil fuels entirely.

Instead of tackling how to heat homes using renewable resources, Ontario decided to move in the opposite direction. The government recently decided to suspend the second round of Large Renewable Procurement, which is the green investment funding that supports large renewable energy contracts, which will apparently save taxpayers $3.8 billion in electricity system costs. This stops more renewable projects from going forward, but it will save residents $2.48 on their monthly energy bills. The initiative ultimately prevents more biomass producers from producing fuel, wind and solar from growing further, and keeps some of the less environmentally fuel sources in place.

Ontario has ambitious climate change goals to lower carbon emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 2050. Suspending important renewables contracts and pushing forward natural gas infrastructure is not a promotion of clean energy. Biofuels need to be used to heat homes.  Overall, the province needs to pick a side and stick with it.

Public consultations are being held across the province and online throughout the months of October and November as Ontario reaches out the public to help build energy’s future.