In today’s world, Canadian businesses and industries must survive in a global economy where the ability to access competitively priced, low-carbon energy is critical to economic growth. Ontario’s unique energy advantage comes from a mix of resources and technology: hydroelectric, nuclear and biomass.
Today, Ontario receives about 70 per cent of its electricity from two sources: hydroelectric and nuclear. Together they provide Ontario’s businesses and homeowners with reliable, low-cost, secure, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-free electricity 24/7. For many decades, this has underpinned economic growth in Ontario and provided an electricity system with one of the world’s lowest carbon footprints.
Ontario hosts much of Canada’s $6.7 billion a year nuclear industry − 160 supply chain companies, 70,000 direct and indirect high-value jobs, and research and development at our universities and colleges that has led to advances in areas like nuclear medicine.
On the environmental side of the ledger, both Ontario and Canada have benefited from nuclear generation. Since 1972, Canada’s CANDU reactor fleet has reduced our national GHG emissions by more than 2.4 billion tonnes − that is 90 million tonnes per year − the equivalent of the emissions from 18 million cars. That’s a substantial contribution to offsetting Canada’s GHG emissions from other forms of energy production.
Refurbishing existing reactors, building new CANDU reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station and exporting Canadian nuclear expertise have both economic and environmental benefits. In Ontario, new nuclear reactors will create tens of thousands of person years of new employment, billions of dollars in economic spinoffs, and additional environmental benefits. From an environmental perspective, a renewed and expanded nuclear fleet will play a critical role in helping displace carbon-emitting fossil fuel electricity generation.
The scheduled closure of the aging 3,000-megawatt Pickering Nuclear Station in 2020 highlights the importance of expediting the new reactor construction at Darlington.
Ontario’s vast renewable, carbon-neutral forestry and agricultural biomass resources represent another untapped opportunity to create economic wealth while reducing GHG emissions. Ontario is becoming more and more dependent on natural gas generation to back up intermittent wind and solar generation. This dependency presents two risks for the province. Without its own natural gas resources, Ontario is increasingly reliant on imports of environmentally questionable U.S. shale gas, and even though prices are currently low, natural gas has historically been subject to price volatility. By converting existing coal stations to utilize a combination of biomass and natural gas for peak demand, Ontario can reduce exposure to these risks and limit the need for new natural gas plants and associated transmission lines.
Unlike intermittent wind and solar generation, biomass is a versatile renewable generation technology that can produce electricity when it is needed.
Investments in biomass supply chain infrastructure could help kick-start thousands of new jobs and economic benefits for Ontario’s agricultural, forestry and transportation sectors.
Powering zero-emission vehicles with these sources of low-carbon electricity can reduce GHG emissions from Ontario’s largest source − transportation. Developing a provincial strategy that shifts from gasoline-dependent cars and trucks to low-carbon electric vehicles would dramatically reduce Ontario’s carbon footprint. Concurrently, such a strategy could help our huge automotive sector play a central role in the development and manufacture of zero-emission vehicles for the 21st century.
Achieving energy superpower status requires more than exporting fossil fuels and uranium. Our goal should be to secure higher value from our energy advantages. With decisive leadership, co-operation between our federal and provincial leaders, and a clear integrated strategy, provincial energy advantages can be leveraged to provide strong national economic growth and high-value jobs.
In Ontario, new nuclear reactors will create tens of thousands of person years of new employment, billions of dollars in economic spin-offs, and additional environmental benefits. From an environmental perspective, a renewed and expanded nuclear fleet will play a critical role in helping displace carbon emitting fossil fuel electricity generation.