The Ontario government is torn between its practical needs for more electricity and a desire to shun natural gas for power generation.
Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), a Crown corporation that regulates the power system, has said the province needs more natural gas generation and phasing this out before 2030 would cause rotating blackouts.
Regardless, Energy Minister Todd Smith has asked the IESO to report in November on a potential moratorium on new gas plants and a plan to reach zero emissions in the electricity sector.
Ian Lee, professor of business at Carleton University in Ottawa, believes the province ponders a poor path.
“Ontario appears to want to follow the failed and disastrous German policy on nuclear. Green ideologues appear to have convinced the government that they can eliminate nuclear and oil and gas before alternative energy has been developed,” Lee told the Western Standard in an interview.
“This will create energy shortages, energy poverty and suffering in the country with the second-coldest average winter temperature and the lowest density of people per square kilometer in world.”
Portions of Ontario’s nuclear plants will go off line as they go through maintenance between now and 2030. Lee says anti-carbon advocates opposed to nuclear need to present realistic alternatives.
“The green voices [that say], 'The earth's on fire, the earth's on fire. We've got to do something, we've got to do something now,' are drowning out the very practical considerations that must be examined,” Lee says.
The professor believes the next federal Conservative leader should stand for practicality over carbon-free aspirations.
“He should announce, 'Yes, we support the decarbonisation. However, it will be the policy of the government of Canada going forward [that] we will not close down any energy source in Canada unless and until the alternative is up and running,’” Lee suggested.
“We've been having a conversation where we've been putting the cart before the horse repeatedly. We talk about the urgency of closing down nuclear or the urgency of closing down oil generators or urgency of closing down natural gas turbines. And nobody's asked such an obvious question, 'Okay, if we go down that road, what are we going to replace it with?’”
Scott Bennett, who teaches political science at Carleton University, says governments across the world wrestle with similar challenges.
“The Ontario government has committed to encouraging the electric car industry and the general growth of population on top of that will create massive increase in demand for electricity. Where will that electricity come from? Renewables won't suffice. Nuclear could do it, but it takes years to bring conventional plants online, and there are other risks,” Bennett told the Western Standard.
Ontario, and most jurisdictions, need to accept that a responsible transition to a non-fossil fuel economy, without creating a crisis, will take many years. Any government responsible to its own people should not be bound by aspirational and often unrealistic international agreements and goals.”
Bennett believes there should be “more public debate about the meaning and implications of ‘net zero’ as a goal” and consideration of different approaches.
“In my view, we must be prepared for a long, careful transition to a different type of economy. In light of the probable time frame involved, governments should also be considering more measures to adapt to climate change, and this should be just as important as preventing it-which may prove to be an unrealistic goal.”
Philip Cross, a Senior Fellow at MacDonald-Laurier Institute, says governments everywhere have a poor record at meeting their emission reduction targets.
“It's hardly surprising that that the Ford government aspires to one thing, but does another. That's sort of been the case of all governments everywhere which is why emissions aren't declining. It's very hard to wean,” Cross told the Western Standard in an interview.
“Ontario under the McGuinty government tried to go down the route of renewables. That was disastrous. It didn't generate a lot of electricity, and the electricity it did generate was at extremely high cost. That's just not a sustainable model.”
Cross says the federal government can’t push electric vehicles and still reach net zero without buy-in from Ontario and other provinces.
“The federal government can sit there and say whatever it wants, but the rubber meets the road at the provincial level. They're the ones that operate these utilities,” Cross said.
“No province in this country is building the hydropower or the renewables that are going to generate the fossil-free emissions that are going to be needed to power all these cars.”