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Ontario's climate strategy to reduce emissions by 2030 scores high on aspirations but low when tested against a checklist of potential outcomes. The Ontario Planning Outlook (OPO), the foundation for Ontario's current Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) process, does not square up with the requirements of meeting the targets of the climate change legislation. If achieving emission reduction targets can be viewed as the cake we covet and desire, then the bittersweet aftertaste will be the certainty of cost realities and the difficult hurdles of implementation.

We highlight the fault lines on the pathway and shine a light on the key components of climate change and energy policy to avoid the road to tears.

We accept the urgency of action on climate change and note that Canada's long-term greenhouse gases strategy entails a significant growth in demand for electrification to meet emission reduction targets. The OPO skirts and dances around this one key factor of future success. The ensuing LTEP must explicitly favour and promote electrification across all economic sectors as the critical enabler for the transition to a low-carbon energy future.

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How and why?

Our analysis identified a broad range of technology solutions to help achieve Ontario's 2030 emission reduction targets.  Consistent with the premise of deep decarbonization, implementing the requisite fuel-switching technologies will drive significant demand for new electricity generation, on the order of 90 TWh or 60 per cent beyond Ontario's current electricity demand. The fault line of the OPO pathway is that it will cost Ontarians $27-billion annually to implement, an extreme imposition that could cripple Ontario's future economy.

Fortunately, there is an opportunity to rethink Ontario's energy supply and delivery infrastructure. A paradigm shift based on a strategic deployment of emerging technologies could radically reshape Ontario's energy future. The four key shifts include:

Embedded Distributed Energy Resources integrated with control by the local distribution utilities;

integrating the "wires and pipes" – hybrid natural gas and electric heating solutions for buildings with behind-the-meter natural gas acting as the new winter peaking capacity for the electricity system;

hydrogen and natural gas storage as the Ontario equivalent to the seasonal storage of Hydro-Quebec's James Bay reservoirs; and

nuclear, as the backbone of a low-carbon electricity future, underpins an economic development strategy.

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The benefits of embracing these four critical paradigm shifts include providing the earliest path to emission reductions, a 50 per cent lower incremental unit cost of energy than indicated by the OPO, an average future electricity system cost of $115/MWh (approximately 20 per cent less than today's), and a future carbon price reduced by a third from $160 to $106 per tonne of emissions.

These paradigm shift benefits would reduce the estimated $27-billion annual cost of emissions reduction to a level of $18-billion, an annual savings of $9-billion from smart electricity planning.

The most significant benefits are at the economy level. The resultant improvement in  Ontario's trade balance ($7-billion annually) and economic, industrial and employment activity ($8-billion annually) would allow Ontario to achieve its climate objectives while enriching the economy at the same time.

The energy planning paradigm shifts leverage Ontario's unique infrastructure advantages and offer a new cost-effective pathway to achieving emission targets. We argue, however, that the benefits would not be achievable without a sustained focus on an integrated policy solution that encompasses environmental, energy and economic development objectives. Yes, with smart and thoughtful energy approaches, Ontario can maintain a competitive advantage both regionally and globally and sing in harmony with Canada's national carbon emission reduction goals.

Jatin Nathwani is professor and Ontario Research Chair in Public Policy for Sustainable Energy at the University of Waterloo and Marc Brouillette is principal consultant at Strategic Policy Economics.

Earth Day Actions

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The goal? Reaching three billion acts of green.

Here are some ideas for participating:

Create your own 'act of green'

Plant a tree (or donate to plant a tree)

March for science

Reduce your environmental footprint

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Eat less meat

Stop using disposable plastic

See more ideas at earthday.org.


This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications, in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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