Canadians recognize that energy underpins the quality of our standard of living. As consumers, we are increasingly demanding that the energy we buy is clean and available when we need it at a price we can afford. Simply put, Canadians want long-term energy supplies that are from environmentally responsible, reliable, affordable and secure sources.
We will need more from energy sources that can cost-effectively help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across all sectors of the economy while concurrently creating jobs and sustaining and growing our economy. The current debates in Ontario about mitigating high electricity prices while managing the undetermined costs of decarbonizing the transportation, building and industry sectors illustrate the complexity of the challenge.
Significant decarbonization means switching from fossil fuels to more low-carbon electricity. Meeting this increased electricity demand, even with successful conservation programs, will require building more sources to produce it. Fortunately, there is growing recognition that these outcomes will not be achievable without sustaining and increasing the role of nuclear energy in Canada's energy mix.
Hydropower currently provides about 25 per cent of Ontario's electricity, with 60 per cent coming from low-carbon nuclear. Unfortunately, Ontario has developed most of its commercially viable hydroelectric potential. Others promote dramatically increased hydropower imports from Quebec as an option, ignoring the high cost and revenue flow out of Ontario. Also overlooked is the fact that today Ontario's nuclear reactors are needed to help Quebec meet its electricity demands, support the refill of their reservoirs and provide insurance against the impacts of climate change on annual precipitation levels.
Wind and solar proponents point out that this generation produces "zero-emission" electricity. That's true when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, but about 70 per cent of the time some form of backup generation is required. In Ontario, carbon-emitting natural gas generation mostly plays this role.
As a result, billions of dollars in ratepayer-supported subsidies have flowed to big multinational wind and solar developers and for natural gas imports. More of this fuel now comes from environmentally questionable U.S. shale gas. In 2015, almost three billion dollars flowed out of Ontario for natural gas imports.
Others are promoting emerging technologies like energy storage to store off-peak power for peak use and to back up intermittent wind and solar and enable micro-grids and distributed renewable energy. Yet the potential uses, costs of these technologies and impacts on the existing system like asset stranding and waste management remain to be determined.
One of Ontario's renewable energy advantages comes from the province's vast forestry and agriculture-sourced biomass resources. Successful transformations of the Atikokan and Thunder Bay coal stations to use carbonneutral biomass have sparked valuable new opportunities. Co-fuelling biomass with natural gas at the idle Nanticoke and Lambton coal stations would reduce GHG emissions and fuel imports. Besides recycling existing generation assets, investments in the biomass fuel supply chain would create jobs in Ontario's forestry and agricultural sectors and growth in the emerging bio-economy.
Nuclear is the foundation of Ontario's and New Brunswick's electricity systems. In both cases, nuclear will be safely providing large volumes of affordable, baseload, low-carbon electricity 24/7, week in and week out for decades to come. As several credible, independent analyses have shown, investments in Ontario's nuclear assets and building two new nuclear units would deliver tens of billions of dollars in net incremental benefits to the economy. This includes tens of thousands of high-value jobs, more innovation-focused research and development, and increased opportunities to export Canada's nuclear technology and expertise.
Analyses also demonstrate that nuclear power provides the earliest and most cost-effective path to emissions reductions. It is a smart, Canadian solution for the continued electrification of the economy, including powering zero-emission electric vehicles and public transit, the development of a hydrogen economy and decarbonization of our building and industry sectors.
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.