In late August, the Conservative government of Ontario announced plans to replace electricity that will be lost with the decommissioning of a large nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, an estimated 90 percent of the new capacity is to be generated from burning natural gas. Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner slams this new reliance on fossil fuels as an “expensive climate disaster”.
The Greens are joined by others who condemn the government for poor planning, not taking climate change seriously, and wasting money. Critics argue that there would be no need to resort to fossil fuels were it not for the shortsighted decision made when the Conservative government first took office in 2018, to scrap 758 renewable energy projects started by the previous Liberal Government. Contracts were canceled at the cost of approximately $230 million in compensation. At the time, the government was accused of acting rashly and without considering the consequences.
Now the Pickering Nuclear Power Plant, which has been in operation since 1971 and produces about 14 percent of Ontario’s electricity supply, is scheduled to start to go offline in 2024 and close in 2025.
At the same time, demand for electricity is expected to increase with more electric vehicles (EVs) and new public transit lines. Conservative Energy Minister Todd Smith warns that without this replacement energy, the province may “experience brownouts that will discourage investment.” With renewed reliance on fossil fuels, Schreiner sees no way for the Province to meet any of its climate obligations.
The economic harm of poor government planning is not limited to the cost of the canceled contracts. The Province is also missing significant opportunities to participate in growing global industries related to environmental conservation and renewable energy.
Schreiner maintains that there is still time to phase out fossil fuels and meet anticipated energy demands with environmental conservation and a transition to renewable energy. The goal of the Greens is for the Province to have net zero carbon emissions by 2045.
In a media release, the Party asserts that: “It makes no sense for the government to ramp up gas plants when Ontario is facing a climate emergency, and there are lower cost, cleaner alternatives.”
The Green Party presents an extensive plan to reduce energy consumption and increase the supply of renewable energy through various means. Any or all of these proposals can be adopted by the Government without delay. Greens would immediately end all subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and develop clean and renewable sources of energy. They would phase out the sale of new gas and diesel-powered vehicles and promote the expansion of electric vehicle charging stations.
Other Green options include: financial incentives for green building retrofits; amending the Building Code to ensure that all new buildings have the lowest possible carbon footprint; and incentives for businesses to invest in energy-efficient equipment and facilities. The Province could lead by example, ensuring that public institutions like hospitals, schools, and universities have ambitious and transparent pollution reduction plans. The Provincial Government could also assist Municipalities in their own efforts to fight climate change.
The Green Party argues that the plans it proposes would be best for the environment and the economy. As summarized in the Party’s 2022 election platform: “If Ontario wants to attract jobs and investment in the trillion dollar clean economy, we need to show that we’re a province that takes climate change seriously. We can create hundreds of thousands of jobs retrofitting our buildings, manufacturing EVs, and creating low-carbon products and technologies. And we’ll take care of our own backyard, preserving nature as our best defense against climate change and moving to a zero-waste economy.”