Going 100% Renewable

The world is going renewable and not a moment too soon. The time we have left to avoid the worst impacts of climate change grows smaller every day.

Ontario was the first jurisdiction in the world to phase out coal-fired electricity to address climate and health. But recently the province has been steadily moving backwards: tearing up renewable power contract, slashing energy efficiency programs and planning a huge increase in the use of gas-fired electricity.

As the International Energy Agency (IEA) has made clear, these actions are not what we need to lower emissions and reduce our climate impact. The IEA reports that it expects 95% of the world’s new power generation over the next five years to come from renewable sources and has called for a swift phase out of fossil fuel burning if the world is serious about keeping warming to no more than 1.5 degrees.

Ontario is well positioned to move to a 100% renewable energy system thanks to its strong renewable resources, history of effective efficiency efforts, and proximity to the world’s waterpower leader, Quebec. We believe Ontario can make its electricity system 100% renewable by taking three key steps:

Solar and wind are now fully cost competitive with other sources of power and half the cost of nuclear energy. And increasingly solar and wind plus storage is also becoming both technically viable and less costly. But Ontario has a big advantage: it can partner with Quebec to use that province’s huge water reservoirs as a way to store solar and wind energy. Essentially, Quebec will import our excess solar and wind power and hold back water when the sun is shining and wind is blowing. When we need power, Quebec releases water to generate power and sends it to Ontario. An MIT study found that this is an excellent way to turn intermittent solar and wind into power that is available 24/7.

The growth of electric vehicles will also open up new ways to store power with Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) systems.

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Now technology is opening up all sorts of new ways to save energy, particularly through smart controls that do everything from dimming lighting when no one is in a room to adjusting the output of motors depending on the job to be done. A particularly exciting technology is air source heat pumps. These function like big air conditioners that can operate in two directions: creating heat in winter and cooling in summer. They are much more efficient than conventional resistance style (e.g., baseboard) electric heating and are quickly becoming an attractive alternative to gas furnaces.

The other great thing about efficiency is that it is a huge job creator that can boost employment everywhere in Ontario. Services to retrofit homes and businesses and make them more efficient are going to be in high demand as we seek to lower our emissions. Developing skills and technology around these services is a global economic opportunity. It will also help to make our businesses more competitive while lowering bills.

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Dozens of Ontario municipalities have joined us in calling on the province to phase out gas-fired power plants. Recognizing that their cities will be ground zero for the impacts of climate change, these cities want to see the province to take action to eliminate the use of gas and lower climate-damaging emissions – not increase gas use.

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This would only make sense if we had no other options, but we have many faster, lower cost ways to meet our electricity needs, none of which leave us with the enormous waste and safety concerns that also come with betting on nuclear.

Nuclear is yesterday’s technology – a technology that never fulfilled its promises of low cost or reliability and that has now been surpassed worldwide by renewable sources. Ontario is one of the few places in the world still banking on costly and slow nuclear projects to meet its electricity needs. We need to stop clinging to this outdated technology and join the rest of the world in going renewable.

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