Today Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) released its Pathways to Decarbonization report, a report that really describes a meandering route through a dark woods to an uncertain future. That suits the IESO’s agenda of sticking with our status quo high-cost nuclear-gas system just fine, as it does the interests of powerful conventional energy system players like Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power, and TC Energy.

What it won’t do is get Ontario anywhere close to having a fully decarbonized electricity system in the time frame that matters – by 2030 when Canada is committed to almost halving its greenhouse gas pollution as a vital step toward keeping warming within livable limits.

What the IESO’ report will do instead is create skyrocketing costs by choosing all the highest cost options for keeping our lights on instead of maximizing cost effective investments in energy efficiency and green energy.

Alarmingly, the IESO is still sticking to its plan to build NEW gas plants (a whopping 1,500 megawatts) while it pursues its long and costly road to eventually acknowledging the recommendations of everyone from the International Energy Agency to the UN High Level Experts Group that gas has to go.

While the IESO’s new report nods to the expert report prepared for it by Dunsky Energy earlier this fall, it refuses to take the Dunsky report’s conclusion seriously: That Ontario does not need new gas plants to keep its lights on! And that’s because the IESO also refuses to take seriously the measures Dunsky and others have described that can vastly lower the costs of electrification, such as using EV batteries to store power, combining heat pumps with thermal storage, or aggressively deploying solar on our roof tops.

The IESO is also proposing to double Ontario’s nuclear generation capacity by 2050 despite the fact that energy efficiency, wind and solar and Quebec water power can all meet our electricity needs at less than half the cost, without producing more nuclear wastes.

And thanks to the government’s ideological opposition to green energy, ratepayers will instead pay tens of billions more for high-cost nuclear and fossil-fuel based hydrogen under the IESO’s scenarios.

Similarly, in its modelling, the IESO arbitrarily caps what it will pay for energy efficiency measures at 3.9 cents per kWh despite that fact that new nuclear will cost at least 16.3 cents per kWh. Why would we continue to pay far more for electricity from nuclear reactors or up to seven times more for power from NEW gas peaker plants instead of maximizing our investments in energy efficiency and renewables?

To add insult to injury, the IESO is planning for Ontario to add 15,000 megawatts of grey hydrogen (fueled by fossil gas) electricity generation capacity by 2050. As a result, its claim that its plan will finally decarbonize our electricity grid between 2045 and 2050 is not true.   

What the IESO’s latest flawed effort makes clear is that there is no serious “made-in-Ontario” plan to decarbonize the electricity system. That is why the federal government is going to have to use its Clean Electricity Regulations to send the province a wake-up call about the need to address climate change.

Given that the Dunsky report (commissioned by the very agency that is now ignoring it) found that investing in energy efficiency, renewables and storage can reduce our electricity costs by up to $290 billion, the federal government will be doing Ontario ratepayers a favour by requiring Ontario to move to a net zero-carbon electricity grid by 2030.

What you can do

Please send the federal government a message about the need for strong Clean Electricity Regulations that can help Ontario embrace the future of energy – not the past.

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