, ,

Councillor calls for alternative power sources including wind and solar

September 18, 2021

Image: IESO—looking at cost-benefit and impacts of phasing out gas

The City of Ottawa’s Committee for Environment, Water and Waste Management will hear a motion from Councillor Shawn Menard at its meeting on Tuesday, September 21, calling for the Ontario government to completely phase out power generation from natural gas by the year 2030.

In specific the motion says:

1. That the City of Ottawa request the Government of Ontario develop and implement a plan to phase-out gas-fired electricity generation by 2030 to help the City of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada meet their climate targets;  2. That the City of Ottawa call on the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to give full consideration to wind and solar, demand response, Quebec Hydro, conservation and other models

Councillor Menard based his motion on a brief report which claims the Ontario government will increase “electricity generation and greenhouse gas pollution from Ontario’s gas-fired power plants by more than 300 % by 2030…due to the closing of the Pickering nuclear station and a forecast rise in the demand for electricity”.

The Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator of IESO is already undertaking an impact assessment of a gas phaseout but notes in its summary presentation that natural gas plays a significant role in providing reliable power to Ontario, and by providing a flexible supply of power to respond quickly if needed. As well, gas generators provide power locally.

Challenges, according to the IESO, include the fact that a number of natural gas plants are under contract and will have a useful life well beyond 2030, so cancelling them would not be cost-effective. Any “new resources” such as wind or solar would have to compete with equivalent characteristics such as reliability.

A recent court case in Minnesota, U.S., saw a wind power plant proposal turned down in favour of a natural gas facility precisely because the wind power plant could not compete on reliability or affordability; the court ruled that electricity prices would rise and the grid would be less stable if the choice were wind power.

The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers or OSPE has weighed in on the phase-out issue, saying that long-term energy planning in Ontario should be to “ensure reliable, cost-effective, affordable and sustainable energy systems. The OSPE recommended the IESO assessment be extended to 2040 to allow for the installation of clean technology including Small Modular Reactors and hydrogen technology.

The word “nuclear” does not appear anywhere in Mr. Menard’s motion except to note the closing of Pickering (which doesn’t have to happen).

The OSPE pointed out the role that gas plants play in Ontario winters: “Distributed gas plants are well suited to offset risks of a severe winter storm.”

This motion is premature, without factual support, and appears to be undertaken under pressure from special interest groups such as the Ontario Clean Air Alliance.

Some may dismiss it as “political theatre” but it is unfortunate that the City of Ottawa, Canada’s capital and the second largest city in Ontario, cannot find itself playing a leadership role and instead repeats tired tropes about wind and solar replacing reliable forms of power generation.

They can’t.

Readers are invited to email their City Councillor or file a comment with the environment

committee–the deadline is 4 p.m. Monday.